OCTOBER 2021 ISSUE of WestVirginiaVille.com
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1) EDITORS/NOTE: It’s a character thing
2) ART/WORKS: Charly Jupiter Hamilton speaks for himself
3) ART/WORKS: The art of Public Art and artistic coffins
4) ART/WORKS: Hippo hearts & Shakespeare meet in West Virginia
5) LISTEN/IN: Michael and Carrie Nobel Kline on the Art & Craft of Listening
6) REVIEW: Considering the Life & Times of Dorothy Parker
7) THE/PAST: When Eugene Debs was locked in WV’s pen for speechifying
The ‘Wonder Mural’ on the West Side of Charleston WV, in an area seeking to rebrand itself as ‘Elk City,’ is a masterwork in the cheeky, multicolored career of Charly Jupiter Hamilton, who died late last month. Below, a WestVirginiaVille video homage to the mural showcases this kaleidoscopic, psychedelic panoply of figures, from angels to demons to dogs and beyond. And maybe you, too, since Charly loaded up his works with friends and public figures in West Virginia life. (Keep an eye peeled for the homage to another local mural, featuring a blue elk emblazoned with ‘Elk City.‘) We also chat with Jeff Pierson, the Director of Public Art in Charleston, on two artistic homages to Charly soon be seen on the streets of West Virginia’s capital city. Plus, one very artistic coffin that will send Charly’s ashes off in style into the Great Beyond.
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The Art of Public Art with Jeff Pierson
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: Describe your position with the city of Charleston, and what suc impossible-to-miss piece public art like Charly Jupiter Hamilton’s ‘Wonder Mural’ on the West Side of Charleston WV brings to a city?
JEFF PIERSON: In 2017, the City of Charleston, West Virginia, established the Office of Public Art. This came out of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, in which we studied our collection of public art and established an office for the purposes of conservation, education, and the commissioning of new works. I came on as the first director. My role is provide the resources to make public art happen. It’s really that simple. I have a very supportive mayor and leadership team. Since the Office of Public Art was established, we have created nearly 300 pieces of public art, executed major conservation projects, and put over 65 artists to work. Public art doesn’t just add to community. It makes the community. Public art creates the vibrance and vitality. It gives people collective pride in their community.
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“Public art doesn’t just add to community. It makes the community.”~ Jeff Pierson, Director of the Office of Public Art in Charleston WV
WVVILLE: You worked on some new public art projects with Charly that are coming out soon. What are they? And what was it like working with him?
JEFF PIERSON: Before his passing, I worked with Charly to create a couple projects that will continue his legacy. The first is the Charly Bench, designed with Charly’s influence, utilizing his sketches. It will be a larger than life-size sculpture of Charly in his style. Charly and I worked on the maquette together after it was molded by the fabricator, Robert Haddy. Charly also painted the design for the 2021 ArtBus, a project that started in 2020. It is a bus wrap that features the artwork of local artists. Charly was selected as our artist for the 2021 ArtBus, in a partnership between FestivALL, the Office of Public Art, and the city’s KRT bus line. He created the characters for the bus and I took his paintings and created a digital layout for the final wrap. His Artbus will be unveiled on October 15.
I have worked alongside Charly on other projects, but never worked with him in his style and approach. I felt like I really understood his work more by being that close to the way he brings his thoughts to paper. Charly is a storyteller. I have never met an artist that puts his imagination on the canvas quite like Charly. You can see his thoughts right in front of you. His marks are simple but complex.
“Charly is a storyteller. I have never met an artist that puts his imagination on the canvas quite like Charly.”~ Jeff Pierson
His work often includes symbolism that is not always obvious. He keeps the viewer engaged that way. The Wonder Mural on the West Side of Charleston is one of the greatest examples of Charly’s talent and success as an artist. It encapsulates the vibrance of Charleston and her people. The mural includes actual people from the community and each one has a story. The Wonder Mural features potentially hundreds of stories through Charly’s vivid characters and whimsical design.
It’s a Coffin Thing
Charly Jupiter Hamilton will be sent off in artful style when he is memorialized this weekend in events that include a ‘Celebration of Life’ at 11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 2, in the River Atrium of the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. A host of artists and creative folk have labored to paint a casket in colorful homage to the artist. The casket will serve as the vessel for his cremated remains inside a locally made wood sculpture urn. In addition, when the Wonder Mural needed restoration they scraped parts of the paint off and Pierson kept some and they will be placed on the casket.
Artists who helped ornament Charly’s coffin include:
Jeff Pierson, Chris Dutch, Rhoda Hamilton, Anna Dailey, Mark Wolfe, Ian Bode, Rob Cleland, Sylvia Pierson, Mark Moore, Bob Villamagna, Scott Smith, Jamie Miller, Vas Scouras (with help from Olympia), Laura Alvis, Gregg Oxley, and Wes Eary