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Artists Among Us: Artist Profile - Charles Waller

Originally Posted: May 30, 2009


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"Communique" (Detail), 4' x 8' - 2009, Mixed Media. All images courtesy of artist and Pamela Williams Gallery

Continuing with our artist profiles of artists both living and working in the Hamptons, our next artist is Charles Waller, who lives in East Hampton

East Hampton - Charles Waller was born in California. He grew up in South America and England. After studying English Literature and Psychology at the University of London, and Illustration at the Royal College of Art in London, Waller graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a B.F.A. Honors.

Artist Charles Waller. Photo by Pamela Williams Gallery

When did you start making art and what medium(s) do you consider to be your roots in art?

Charles Waller: I stated drawing at around seven years of age. I had originally wanted to be veterinarian. I worked for one as a young boy, however, my grades in math and science were awful, and I would never have made it in veterinary school. As a result I started to draw animals (healthy ones). I have had numerous pets, including several monkeys, including a Coatiemundi [known as the raccoon monkey], an iguana larger than myself (at age seven), and anything else I could bring home from the local pet shop. I now live with my parrot named Tattoo. My mother was associated with the head fashion designer for MGM Studios, Edith Head. My mother was a talented fashion model and fashion illustrator. My grandmother, a noted illustrator and sculptor, also influenced my drawing skills.

"Hat Trick," 6' x 6' - 2008, Mixed Media.

When I was a young boy, my father was in the oil business and we lived in Peru, Panama and Costa Rica. He would take his company's wooden crates and use the wood to make wonderful toys. I had an airplane and a helicopter that were hung on a cable stretching across our backyard - it was great fun for my dog, Zsa Zsa, and myself to fly across the length of our yard. I also had a race car - complete with a dashboard with instruments made from jar tops. I believe being his 'personal assistant' on these, and many other projects, taught me to enjoy building things. This would account for the three dimensional aspect of my work.

After moving back to the United States for several years, we then moved to London, England. I was around 12 years old, and our fist flat was at 13 C Baker Street - across the street from the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes. It was the early 1960s and I loved the posters that lined the walls of the underground tube system (subway), whether it was an ad for a Pink Floyd concert, or an ad for Guinness - the graphics were great.

Living in London at that time, and not having a car but having total freedom as it was a very safe city, and my parents didn't worry and trusted me, I was able to explore and move freely. I could go all over the place and spent so much time exploring and visiting museums.

"Cup?," 4' x 5 1/2' - 2009, Mixed Media.


Another influence on me was television - in those days you could only receive three channels (BBC-1, BBC-2 and ITV). Broadcasting went off the air at 10 p.m. My favorite show was "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and I was allowed to stay up late to watch it. Terry Gilliam's animation for "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was a big influence on my illustration background.

After spending a number of years going to a public school, which is actually considered a private school in the U.S., and wearing those little blue jackets and knickers, we moved to California and then back to London. At that age most of my friends were saving up their money to buy their first car, but I was spending all my money at Portobello Road and flea markets, and I began collecting 'treasures.'

"Half-Full," 4' x 5' - 2009, Mixed Media.


What is it about the Hamptons that brought you here and enticed you to stay, work, and pursue your art here as opposed to some place else?

CW: I have been coming out here since my sophomore year in college [Rhode Island School of Design-RISD]. The parents of my girlfriend at the time owned the first cottage down in the dunes in Amagansett, and I kept coming out here - for many years as a renter, and then eventually bought a house in East Hampton (Springs) as my weekends kept getting longer and longer, I finally sold my loft in the West Village [in Manhattan] and moved out here permanently.

"Snake Eyes," - 2009, Mixed Media.

How do you support yourself as an artist?

CW: I have supported myself with my artwork since day one - even when I was in college, I worked for The Boston Globe two days a week, and after moving to Manhattan, I worked on a regular basis for The New York Times and many other publications - as well as my fine art and sculptures. I still receive royalties and am being subsidized from my past illustration career, which allows me to dedicate most of my time to fine art.

Why live and work in the Hamptons as opposed to elsewhere?

CW: The real reason I moved out here wasn't to pursue my art - it was to pursue my love of the water. My dream had always been to live near water, and I do live on the water on Three Mile Harbor. I have a boat, and am an avid fisherman, sailor, and love to body surf.

What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?

CW: The natural beauty. I am equally passionate about gardening. To me, landscaping and gardens are living art, and incredibly difficult to create given the difficulties of weather and working outdoors. I am not a landscape painter and create all my artwork indoors. I have a great appreciation for the environment that exists out here.

What artists do you feel have influenced you and your work?

CW: My favorite artists are [Rene] Magritte, who influenced my sense of surrealism and juxtaposition, Joseph Cornell, who influenced my assemblages, and David Hockney, Francis Bacon and [Jean-Michel] Basquiat, whose brush strokes I find to be passionate and unique.

"Love Letters," 63" x 13' x 13" - 2008, Mixed Media.


What advice would you give an emerging artist?

CW: Go into real estate. No mater what medium you choose to work in the way you view life will be your signature - believe in yourself, and don't ever let anyone tell you what to do.

What gives you an edge (if any)?

CW: Humor, satire and a touch of irreverence.

What are you working on now, and are you involved in any upcoming shows or exhibitions?

CW: I purchased boxes of letters because I liked the way the envelopes looked - some are crumbling so I started to take them apart to use as texture. I started reading the letters, most of which represent a lifetime of correspondence between a sailor in WWII, living in Groton, CT at the submarine base, and his girlfriend at the time (now his wife), who lived in England. He called her "Toots" and she signed every letter to him with nine X's, and used a little rubber stamp with a 'girly wave' impression on it, circa 1930s-1940s. These letters so intrigued me that I used them as the background for huge pen and ink drawings that relate to the correspondence. This work is part of my series "Communique" which will open at The Pamela Williams Gallery beginning on June 12. (The exhibition will run through July 13. The gallery is located at 167 Main Street in Amagansett, 631-267-7817).

The other part of the exhibition will be sculptures that I made from old wooden factory gear forms, which were produced during the Industrial Age (mostly from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania). These wooden forms made a cast for the gears to then be fired into iron - just beautiful to handle and I incorporated them into my own sculpture.

Describing Waller's upcoming show, Pamela Williams indicated "Waller often seizes his inspiration from the found objects and antique materials he collects - the individual works are assembled and reconfigured from these various elements and enhanced by Waller's exquisite draftsmanship. They are inhabited, beyond their strong visual impact, by bits of memory and a good deal of Waller's signature wit."

 • To view more of Charles Waller's work, visit the following website at www.charleswallerstudios.com, or www.pamelawilliamsgallery.com

And just one more...Waller and Zsa Zsa in that plane! Photo courtesy of artist.




Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.




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Guest (Jane Johnson) from Sag Harbor NY says::
I have seen Waller's work over many years. I love his work. Thank you for writing about him
Feb 17, 2018 10:46 am

Guest (darrel reed) from lebanon, mo says::
i currently have a small drawing of a leafless tree on the bank of a lake, with mountains in the background, signed c. waller. do you recall when you drew this?
Dec 29, 2013 4:36 pm

Guest (Stephen) from East Hampton says::
I recall a very memorable show of Charles Waller's about five or six years ago at Lizan Tops Gallery, now defunct. I recall in particular a series of large paintings based on the use of old wedding dresses in mixed media. I was very taken with this work. I recall one in particular, "War Bride," which had amazing movement, and aliveness. I was affected by them and wished I could have afforded one at the time. I wonder if Waller is still working with old wedding dresses. I would gladly give him my mother's wedding dress from 1938 which I have often imagined finding a home for within this genre of his work. msf2547@aol.com
Sep 24, 2009 10:12 pm

Guest (Kris) from East Hampton says::
I'm excited to see this show. I've always enjoyed Charles work, especially his sense of humor.
Jun 12, 2009 3:07 pm

Guest (paula ungar) from larchmont,ny says::
I read about your work and it is an inspiration to those of us who never made it for various reasons. I am a jewelry historian and work in gold. Looking forward to spending a little time in the Hamptons this summer and seeing your exhibitions.Sincerely, paula ungar pjulny@aol.com
Jun 6, 2009 7:33 am

Guest (ArtLover) from East Hampton says::
His work is awesome, and Cornell would be proud. His father should be proud also. Fantastic article - keep 'em coming.
Jun 6, 2009 12:30 am

Guest (Auggie Doggie) from Maidstone Park says::
I've known Waller's work for many years and have 2 of his pieces. The photos here are great, but still not as good as seeing them in person. He has been an illustrator for some of the top newspapares and magazines, and is one of our premier artists. Go see the show!
Jun 4, 2009 4:52 pm

 

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