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
A small tsunami of words and images has been posted about beloved West Virginia artist Charly Jupiter Hamilton since his death, at age 73, was announced in the Sept. 21, 2021 Charleston Gazette-Mail. A lot of folks, myself included, have tried to convey what it was about his art and his oddball, endearing character that made him such a notable figure in the life of the city and the state where the largest part of his work was birthed. Right now, let’s allow Charly his own say, in words drawn from the Oct. 17, 2010 video (below) I did of him for the Sunday Gazette-Mail. His words ring just as true today as when he first uttered them. I give you his words first and then the video from which they spring, so as to ponder them before the video shows him vibrantly at work and at play — which may have been the same thing for Charly. ~ Douglas John Imbrogno
CHARLY JUPITER HAMILTON: from “The World According to Charles Jupiter Hamilton.” SOUNDTRACK: “Kusuri” by The Flying Fortress. YOUTUBE LINK: youtu.be/udG8Qs_4ewc
Yeah, I can just absolutely get into it. It’s a form of meditation. I like the mountains! The mountains remind me of different shapes and feelings of that — and a little bit of the isolation of it. It makes me feel a little bit like … like an outlaw just living here! It’s a little bit like, you know, I’m in the Hole in the Wall Gang.
Nicolas Cage has a piece of mine. People [are like] ‘Wow!’ But I’m sure he doesn’t contemplate: ‘Wow, look! There’s Charly Hamilton’s piece!‘ You know? Allen Dershowitz, actually, he bought work from me. And he bought it from Boston, when he had a law firm up in Boston, as well as L.A. He came to the openings — not here. Up in Boston.
Just recently, I was in the VA clinic — it’s kind of a rehab clinic, actually. I decided that I, you know, I have a drinking problem. So, I’m trying not to drink. I’m doing real well at it. But I just thought maybe I needed to add something extra — because either happy or stressful times, I think: ‘Okay, okay!! This art work’s not good enough! So, if I just drink a six-pack, I’ll loosen up and it will be better!’ And instead I drink multiple beers and, you know, liberate all the beers in Rite Aid. And the artwork doesn’t get any better.
A lot of my feelings about my art — it’s Catholic. You know? It has sin. Redemption. It has lust. It has love. It has hell. It has heaven in it. And I think that appeals to people.~ Charly Jupiter Hamilton
I’m in rehab. [Speaks in cranky old man voice] “It was a real war! We had kamikaze fighters! It wasn’t that war like you all fought. Didn’t you all lose that war?!”
Yeah, I was a veteran when it wasn’t cool to be a veteran, you know?
A lot of my feelings about my art — it’s Catholic. You know? It has sin. Redemption. It has lust. It has love. It has hell. It has heaven in it. And I think that appeals to people.
And it’s childish. Because, you know, I’m childish when I do it. I get excited. I feel, now, at 62 as I did when I first — I still HATE to sell anything! I mean, I really want to keep everything, you know? And just have everything.
And go: ‘How the hell did I do that?!
And then: ‘Why’d I do that?’