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SYNCRETIC BEGINNINGS
A Reckoning of Ideals & Appearances

I spend a lot of time making cross-referenced Indo-American art or what I often refer to as psychedelic-farm paintings. I can’t rightly say what any of this means, but what I can do is share the story of how this situation came to be as well as some of the ideas it’s inspired.

“Aesthetic sense is the twin of one's instinct for self-preservation and is more reliable than ethics.”
--
Joseph Brodsky

Like many 20th century Americans I was born into a home under the influence of a diverse mix of sentiments. Dad was definitely a Goldwater conservative where mom was more a mix of Vito Paulekas and Lorrie Collins. And you know what, from an aesthetic standpoint, I absolutely adored the crisscross environment these two distinct personalities had set up for themselves. Everything about their place felt like home to me, so much so that attempting to recreate the entwined ambiance from this time of my life has long been a continuing obsession.

I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of theoretical discussion lately about how we really don’t have any memories of our earliest childhood experiences; that we just make them up later on as “mental constructs,” recreated from the basis of reoccurring photographic exposure. While these observations may hold some weight for a picture saturated smartphone generation, in my case I can honestly say they really don’t wash. I have crystal-clear memories of my earliest childhood that are way more visceral than imagistic and what’s more when I look at the photographs from this time (which in my case are few and far between) they really seem nothing like my memories at all.

When I think back on my earliest days there are definitely reminiscences of objects and scenes, but at the forefront of everything there is always this unified (yet abstract) apparition of what my mom and dad were vying to incarnate. Dad was pipe-Tobacco and steam-trains, labor and earth; whereas mom was kites and tree leaves, meditation and sky. I know this because many of these gut recollections would go on to severely prejudice me, again something I could’ve never have learned from a photo. What’s even more interesting though is that my memories of this time are directly connected with the thought processes of each of my parents. What I mean is, it’s always been clear to me that my dad is a person who’s thoughts are intensely connected to a past that doesn’t quite match whatever present he may find himself in; while my mom’s thoughts have always seemed part of some parallel world, that may very well influence this one, but still exists somewhere over yonder.

This original home environment, which now really has become nothing more than a memory, wouldn’t last past my third birthday and right after their final breakup both my parents moved into their own small apartments. I didn’t care much for these new post-marital environments at all. They were bland and stagnant; it would seem that on their own neither of my parents could outwardly express themselves in their surrounding décor to the same degree as when they were united. However, this didn’t last long as both of them would soon find new partners, ones who were more in line with each of their differing points of view, and would go on to create entirely fresh homes for themselves with their newfound love interests.

These second-second-time-around residences were definitely more expressive and robust than the apartments, but they were also obvious attempts at quarantining themselves from the opposing ideals (and their decorative counterparts) of their previous relationships. My mom’s new place was buoyant new-age liberal with a dash of Amerindian/country-western, while my dad’s was restrained catholic conservative with accents of Hopper and Tchaikovsky. Synthetically perfect little settings aimed at flaunting their polarized egos. It was also during this time that they would spend a lot of energy licking their emotional partisan bruises by degradingly dismissing one another with self-grandiose statements about how their own ideas and way of life were somehow better. With all of this one-sided bickering and self-profusion I soon found myself disliking these new sentimental saccharine-sweet palaces even more than I disliked the flavorless apartments.                     

This was an aversion I took very seriously. Unconsciously embarking on my own superiority trip, I easily convinced myself that dad’s America was a capitalistic disaster area, bogged to the point of uselessness inadaptability and narrow-minded industrial excess and mom’s model really wasn’t much better. For me her unconfined utopia was nothing more than a delusion choked with intra-psychic twaddle, whiny loudmouthed protesters and excessive self-indulgence where most of the major cultural achievements had been whittled down to a compilation cd featured in late night infomercials. So, armed with these strong opinions, I would spend most of my teen years marginalized within the musings of Southern-California’s 80’s and 90’s musically enhanced sub-cultures.

However, as I approached my twenties I began to feel conflicted as several things were becoming more and more apparent to me. The first issue was that, no matter how hard I tried to block them out, elements from my parents’ varying mindsets were beginning to self-expressively find their way into my life and work. No matter how much relatively new culture I exposed myself to (which is actually pretty old now) I could never fully shake the buoyant impressions from the experimental hybrid environment my parents had once attempted to sustain. And to top things off, I was beginning to realize that all the contemporary punk-rock, dub, techno and hip-hop music I was enjoying, which I felt somehow set me miles apart from my paternal trappings, was just as wrapped up in aesthetic ideology as anything my parents were into… maybe even more so.   

It would be at this point in my life (mid 20’s) that it really hit me: wherever you find a distinct set of appearances you’re likely to find an equally distinct set of ideals; chicken and the egg scenario, there’s really no way to separate one from the other. Moreover, I began to notice that wherever you find that elusive thing we commonly refer to as beauty it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the presence of an equally beautiful set of ideals. Like a good friend of mine once said, “the worst causes always have the best flags.” With thoughts like these in mind, I found myself spending a lot of time fruitlessly reaching for what I could best describe as balance while desperately trying to recapture some of the charm and magic of my toddler years, for whatever that was worth.

Anyhow, the whole thing was starting to get a bit tedious and I was just about to throw in the towel until fate decided to intervene.    

I was sitting by myself at the Van Nuys public-library one rainy Saturday afternoon (circa 1995) perusing a fresh pile of requested books on Buddhist and Hindu art. While going through the stack however,  I noticed there were two (what at the time seemed like out of place) hardbacks: one was a 1974 publication on a twentieth century painterly movement hitherto unknown to me entitled, “The American Scene, the other was a 1986 biography on an artist named Grant Wood. I almost brushed them aside without any thought but the Librarian who had carted them over convinced me to take a closer look and what I found inside would initiate a change in my thinking that hasn’t changed since.

I was definitely familiar with the painting “American Gothic, but what mostly caught my eye here was a set of vivid landscapes which were completely new to me yet totally familiar. Mostly executed during the 1930’s these paintings had compositionally achieved everything Cézanne was after, even rivaling the master Frenchman in many regards. What’s more, their North American pastoral-idyll vibe clearly encapsulated all the virility associated with my dad’s ideas regarding national culture while simultaneously maintaining all the feminine charm and mystery that was my mother (it was this very same play of gender forces by the way, that had driven much of my attraction to the South-Asian art I had originally sought to view that day).

Up until then I had taken several art history courses and considered myself fairly savvy, but I couldn’t once remember being exposed to the vibrant natural imagery and artistic modernity contained in some of these images… I really wanted to know more. Passing the entire afternoon engrossed in these books some stark clues began to surface as to how and why artists like Wood and Benton had been so intentionally cast-aside. One of the strongest of these telltales appeared in the appendix of Wood’s bio in the form of a first-person (yet ghostwritten) essay tactically entitled “Revolt Against the City;” a prosaic, overly postured stab at trying to preposterously demonstrate (among other things) why the country art these men had created was somehow regionally superior to that of the unfortunate urbanite.

Reading this gratuitous paper I couldn’t help but understand why much of the associated work had been fashionably closeted. But what I really took away from its transparent prejudices was a valuable organic shift in thinking when it came to interpreting the age old symbiosis of ideology and aesthetics. Terse and obscure, where the art that accompanies it is anything but, I knew then and there that enraged discourses like “Revolt Against the City” are Trojan-horse travesties; the direct result of what happens when we refuse to let the astounding simply speak for itself and then proceed to only make matters worse by anchoring narrow rhetoric to something which clearly never needed it in the first place.

Inspired by this realization, as well as how nicely these American landscapes coincided with the South-Asian art I had initially sought out that day, I resolved once and for all to let the aesthetics of my childhood have their own say. It wasn’t like I entirely stopped listening to people’s opinions on these things; it’s just that if they claimed to know why something was exquisitely superior I would now always investigate such a claim by allowing exquisiteness itself to have the first and final voice. And you know what I discovered? Most of us do understand the innate worth in the appearances we claim as our own, that is until we allow the static of our fanaticism to get in the way (i.e. as soon as we decide to hold one set of aesthetics hostage to our own limited ideals all our inherent notions of aesthetic value steadily decline.)

From here I would proceed to freely connect as much as I could with the art I had discovered that day, while tandemly continuing my investigations of the symbolic imagery of India. Setting up a western-Asiatic vehicle for myself that would not only quell a lot of the conceptual dissidence of my youth but would also allow me to converse with some rather articulate imageries, I would thus begin a visual journey which I’m happy to say is still going strong today.

Obviously America is a place of ideological tension and diversity and so the same naturally follows when it comes to our visual tastes. Still, as humans, we always have more in common with one another than we don’t. And when we make the effort to liberate the imagistic from our petty biases, this revelation of universal commonality only becomes strikingly clearer.

As far as cultural infusion is concerned, I find it a bit farfetched to think we could maintain a world where our indigenous achievements live in an absolute vacuum. What’s more, it would be pretty pretentious to view one culture as so superiorly exclusive that it couldn’t benefit from a complimentary influx of its various global counterparts. Still, there is some legitimacy in asking what an Anglo from the San Fernando Valley is doing expounding on South-Asian imagery and does he even have a right to? For me, any human culture is an extension of humanity itself, especially when it expresses universal usefulness and truth. When treated with esteem, and not exploited as a mere means of vanity or profiteering, culture has no owner -- only cheerleaders. I respectfully realize that some of you may not agree, but this is the spirit in which this work was fashioned and hopefully it is the same spirit in which it will mostly be received.

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Painting Titles & Descriptions
This gallery contains some of my first attempts at working alongside the Indo-American vehicle I set up for myself.  Challenges would abound for sure: working within and around conventions, fashioning paintings that would stand free from the assistance of a rhetorical crutch and respectfully translating a non-indigenous culture were just a few. I like to think that some of these pieces rise to the occasion, while I'm sure others certainly fall short. Everything here represents a rewarding time of trial and growth for me as a painter though, and I’m always grateful for that. So, regardless of whatever future directions I may find myself gravitating towards, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that I will always look back on most of this initial work as a worthwhile start.

The paintings featured here roughly span a period of four years, 2004 through 2007. However, I’ve also included images from the very first large piece I ever produced which aimed to blend American and South-Asian imagery (Tri-Guna Stew, 1995). It’s a rather unpolished, colored pencil rendering but it did set the tone for much to come. A final note: although all of the work in this gallery continues with many of the motifs found in the work of the Regionalists, not all of it pays homage to the symbolism of South-Asia. This mainly has to do with the fact that some of the subject matter addressed here (especially in regards to the various group shows which arose during this period) called for more secular stylings.

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Paintings:
1) American Tara -- In White. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   48x68 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: Tara: (Sanskrit-Star) one of the most beloved deities of Tibet.  Having vowed (after being advised of the spiritual advantages of male birth) never to relinquish her female form, Tara symbolizes the universes’ role as cosmic mother of all… even the bad kids in America. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

2) American Tara -- In Green. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   42x68 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: Tara again (but in her green form) accompanying a tractor and sunflowers of a benevolent nature. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005. 

3) The Otiosity of Patsy Cline. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:  20x24 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas. 
Description: A tribute to a recreate goddess of the pop-music scene, ironically stolen from us (all too soon) by promoters of the hastened lifestyle.  This piece is all about the fine art of disengagement… the willingness to forfeit practicalities and responsibility in exchange for romantic searches in the moonlight. Note: I have been criticized by several Cline fans for the word “Otiosity” to entitle this piece. I use the word here to draw attention to how malicious negativity is ridiculously used by *others* to criticize our behavior and manipulate our fears, not to actually describe Ms. Cline. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

4) American Surrealchemist. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   24x28 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas
Description: Agrarian, gothic bromide at its finest.  Magic things are always happening, and they’re closer than you think. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

5) The Vacant Promises of Harold Hill. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x24 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: If someone makes you an offer that sounds too good to be true, be sure to take them up on it… especially if there’s a fugue involved. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

6) Cinco De Diciembre. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   24x28 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: Krampus and consort, safe at home… contemplating their lot.  Krampus group show, Copro Gallery, 2004. 

7) Annuit Coeptis., Providence Has Favored Our Undertaking. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:  20x24 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: A commoner’s take on escaping the insistence of reciprocity in a hard day’s work. This piece went missing in transit via Fedex, if anyone knows of its whereabouts please feel free to share. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005. 

8) Novus Ordo Seclorum, A New Order of The Ages. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   24x28 in. -- Acrylic on canvas
Description: There’s other ways of learning about the confines of a theocratic plutocracy than creating one. This piece went missing in transit via Fedex, if anyone knows of its whereabouts please feel free to share. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

9) War of the Goo-nuhs. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x24 in. --  Acrylic on Canvas
Description: Guna: Sanskrit-cord or strand, The only three perceptual qualities of our illusionary existence.  1) The total, concealing quality of tamas, 2) The false, projecting quality of rajas, 3) The semi-revealing quality of sattva. According to certain circles, the bulk of humanity exists in a stinted dream.   Constantly bound by varying degrees of the three gunas, we live out our lives like blind marionettes, manipulated by stimuli that at best offers only pale reflections of our true, unlimited nature. Eye of The Illuminati group show, Copro Gallery, 2005.

10) National Narcissist – 1845 (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x28 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas
Description: The first of three paintings, in an ode to Thomas Cole’s “The Course of Empire” series, which visual comment on the Biblical tale of Adam and Eve and the rise and fall of oil consumption in America - The mighty arms of karma hold the heavens from the earth. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

11) National Narcissist – 1945 (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x28 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas 
Description: The second of these three paintings - The mighty arms of karma bring the heavens to the earth. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

12) National Narcissist – 2045 (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x28 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas
Description: The last of these three paintings - The mighty arms of karma rob the heavens from the earth. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

13) La Negra de la Luna. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   30x48 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: Kali and Shiva happily at home in rural America. Omerica solo show, C-pop Gallery, 2005.

14) Parson Al’s Fable. (2005)/
Dimensions & Medium:   30x48 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: A Regionalist take on Hitchcock’s classic celluloid tale describing the potential horrors of an underlying psychosis. Static Cinema group show,” C-Pop Gallery, 2005.

15) Victorian Sacrifice. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x28 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: The consecration of the cultural harvest.  To receive everything, one must be willing to give the same. Samhain group show, Copro Gallery, 2005.

16) Victorian Sacrifice II. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x24 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas. 
Description: Chinnamasta dances in the theater of the neo-American scene. Samhain group show, Copro Gallery, 2005.

17) Ganapati Ice Creams. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x24 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: All I know is that in my neighborhood every once in a while this amazingly cool guy comes around.   He drives an ice cream truck, loves his job and even has a pretty good singing voice … for an elephant god.

18) Manifold Temerity. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   20x24 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: A continuing exploration into the phenomenon of cultural superiority and cross-cultural experimentation, within the frontiers of a non-egalitarian nation.

19) Apocalyptic Popcorn. (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   33x48 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.

Description: Secular Bravado against the certainty of ecumenical doom. Nostradamus group show, Copro Gallery, 2006.

20) The Ballad of Anissa Jones. (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x12 in. -- Oil on Wood.
Description: Small oil painting of one of my favorite T.V. child stars.

21) Daughters of Evolution I. (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   18x24 in. -- Acrylic on Canvas.
Description: Daughters of Evolution: One of three paintings (based on Grant Wood’s “Daughters of Revolution”) which explore the evolution of feminine dynamism in America -- from stuffy, ultra-national tea sippers to suicide goddesses gone weird. Bergamot Invasion II group show, Copro Gallery, 2006.

22) Truman’s Eden & The Neuroses of Sayyid Qutb. (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   33x48 in. -- Oil on Canvas Panel.
Description: A visual exploration into the defining elements of the American dream and the envy they are capable of unleashing. Copro Gallery 15th Anniversary group show, 2006.

23) The Translation of Lal-Dade. (2007)
Dimensions & Medium:  18x24 in. -- Oil on Canvas Panel.
Description: Lal Ded or Lalleshwari was a 14th century, Kashmiri Shaivite poetess. Little is known of her life apart from an immense proliferation of stories, which attest to her popularity, but cannot be verified historically.  She composed many verse sayings which are often direct and simple.  But, many of them are complex in their associations, so much so that translations cannot convey why they are so deeply loved among many Kashmiris both Hindu and Muslim alike.

Drawings:
1) Tri-Guna Stew (1995)
Dimensions & Medium:   26x40 in. Graphite, Prismacolor, Ink & Watercolor on Paper.
Description: This is one of the very first pieces I did in the vein of American and South-Asian aesthetic harmony. It features the Trifecta of Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kali as well as Radha and Krishna.

2) Accompanies the Painting:  Annuit Coeptis. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

3) Accompanies the Painting:  War of The Goo-nuhs. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   9x12 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper

4) Accompanies the Painting:   American Tara -- In White. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   9x12 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

5) Accompanies the Painting:   American Tara -- In White. (2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

6) Accompanies the Painting:  War of The Goo-nuhs. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

7) Accompanies the Painting:  War of The Goo-nuhs. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x10 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

8) Accompanies the Painting: De-Evolution Dunny. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   6x8 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

9) Accompanies the Painting:  The Otiosity of Patsy Cline (2004).
Dimensions & Medium:   7x9 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

10) Accompanies the Painting:  The Otiosity of Patsy Cline.(2004)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

11) Accompanies the Paintings in the National Narcissist series. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

12) Accompanies the Paintings in the National Narcissist series. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

13) Accompanies the Paintings in the National Narcissist series. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   9x12 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

14) Accompanies the Paintings in the National Narcissist series. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   9x12 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

15) Accompanies the Paintings in the National Narcissist series. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x10 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

16) Accompanies the Paintings in the National Narcissist series. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   5x6 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

17) Accompanies the Painting: Victorian Sacrifice II. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x8 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

18) Accompanies the Painting: Victorian Sacrifice II. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   10x10 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

19) Accompanies the Painting: Victorian Sacrifice. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x10 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

20) Accompanies the Painting: La Negra de La Luna. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   7x9 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

21) Accompanies the Painting: La Negra de La Luna. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   7x9” Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

22) Accompanies the Painting:  Manifold Temerity. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

23) Accompanies the Painting:  Manifold Temerity. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x10 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

24) Accompanies the Painting: Manifold Temerity. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x10 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

25) Accompanies the Painting: Ganapati Ice Creams. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   4x5 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

26) Accompanies the Painting: Ganapati Ice Creams. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x10 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

27) Accompanies the Painting: Fabricating Evil. (2005)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x10 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

28) Accompanies the Painting: Apocalyptic Popcorn. (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   8x12 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

29) Accompanies the Paintings in the: Daughters of Evolution series. (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   9x12 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

30) Accompanies the Paintings in the: Daughters of Evolution series. (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   9x12 in. Graphite & Watercolor on Paper.

31) Accompanies the Paintings in the: Daughters of Evolution series (2006)
Dimensions & Medium:   9x5 in.  Graphite & Watercolor on Paper. 

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 Charles Wish Copyright 2007

Charles Wish
Copyright 2007