website.jpg

Charles Wish (b. Frederick Charles Peters, 1971) began his artistic journey as the child of divorced parents investigating California theme parks and escaping to the cornfields and music subcultures of both the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.  Attending elementary and middle schools (1977 - 1985) alongside the likes of River Phoenix, Lisa Bianconi and Deacon Jude, he would often find his formative years marked by memorable statements of self-expression and creativity. Following a bicycling accident at age thirteen however, Wish would also have to endure brain surgery coupled with a recuperation that would last most of his teenage years. 

After high-school, while striving to find common ground within his parents' differed beliefs, Wish would spend most of his young adulthood employed in a series of day-jobs and studying the imagery and writings of contrasting cultures via the public library. It was during this time of introspection that he first began to notice visual similarities in the contrasting work of Christo Javacheff, Grant Wood and traditional Tibetan art.

Taking solace in the discovery of these parallels, and while employed at a Los Angeles based screen printing company (1995 - 1996), Wish would complete the first piece which would set the tone for much of his later work. It was also at this this time that he began to correspond with several monks of the Ramakrishna order residing in both Trabuco County and Hollywood, California monasteries. Soon, he would find himself attending lectures and taking Sanskrit classes at these locations; helping expand his knowledge of Tantric Buddhism and South-Asian cultural history while simultaneously indorsing his newfound artistic aspirations.

Apprehensive about locating an academic program to fully meet the directions in which he wanted to take his art, Wish agreed to further his education by staying at these monasteries as an extended guest worker. His first appointment there was that of primary caregiver to the aging parents (Art Scott and wife Dhiramata) of a prominent American swami (1997 - 2000).  Following this another job opportunity soon arose, that of personal assistant to then head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, Swami Swahananda.

Wish accepted the position, managing the Swami's daily affairs while handling hospitality demands for visiting guests. He continued with his cultural instruction, actively meditated, designed several book jackets and won an international illustration award.  After roughly two years (2001 - 2003) of employment in this exciting and exacting job, Wish amiably left the monastery to officially launch his formal life as a professional artist. 

 * * * 

A core of Wish's significant paintings pair South-Asian religious symbols with classic Americana or seminal works associated with Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton.  The Asian tradition of infusing landscapes with rolling lines, vibrant color, and harmonious shading was eagerly proposed in landmark art instruction texts by Arthur Wesley Dow (1899), influential member of the arts and crafts movement and keen promoter of Japonaiserie

Both Benton and Wood would have been highly familiar with Dow's technical theories and Wish certainly capitalizes on the oriental sway in the Regionalist’s art; utilizing visual statements from several diverse pasts, a Promethean like effect of merging time and space, to address some shared and rather ongoing social issues. Not the least of which is this: Cultural infusion is a natural human occurrence and if the Regionalists, a group whose very name tries to play down the veracity of cultural comingling, weren’t immune to the process… well then it’s safe to assume that none of us are. What’s more, modern technology hasn’t exactly relaxed this phenomenon; on the contrary, it has solidly ensured us that every way of life in existence is now open to be affected by some outside influence.

Wood and Benton would immortalize everyday Midwestern scenes, rising to become leaders of a uniquely American art movement, by celebrating the emotion and beauty of their local environments and commonplace people. However, the commonplace today is to navigate a repository of choices; to make sense of a multitude of cultures and essentially create one’s own edifying individuality. For the Regionalists, Midwestern (and American) culture divined its power from the remote lives of ordinary people. Wish’s blending of foreign motifs with American idealistic art strives to tap that very same power, while not denying that the remoteness of Benton and Wood’s day, whether we like to admit it or not, has steadily dissipated.

The artistic impulses behind Wish’s work, like the vision of "Tantric gods and goddesses having intense relationships with Regionalist landscapes on canvas," would first manifest themselves in the mid-1990s. These two distinct schools of thought are described by the artist as, "primary characters in my differed visual vocabulary." 

But, even if they may seem diametrically opposed, the paring of South-Asian themes with provincial American scenes generate a cumulative effect for both the artist and the viewer. For me, the result is an inclusive interactive experience, seeking the substantial essence in diverging elements until only the axis remains. For Wish, all cultures contain essentials which are worthy of exploration and use in our efforts to locate and express our ongoing personas. The test for 21st century man is to maintain a positive and harmonious composure; keeping sight of our innate traditions while not unwittingly turning our backs on the benefits of a cultural influx.  

A series of (2004 - 2005) exhibitions at Hollywood alternative spaces and Culver City’s Copro Gallery marked the genesis of Wish's professional success along with his first solo show at the CPop Gallery in Detroit, Michigan (2005). Married to Abbigail Cooke, Wish currently maintains a private studio in Southern-California and recently purchased a northwestern Pennsylvania, Federal style building that is being restored and converted into a creative/retreat space. 

Kristy Raine

Reference Librarian and Archivist,
Mount Mercy College, IA