Charlie Hukill has created a body of work that evokes a feeling of time and place that exists in our minds like a black and white movie. “Fenders and Headlights” is a compilation of over 40 original works of art that pay homage, in a small part, to America’s love affair with the car and, in a large part, to a way of life that was good. Charlie has captured, not just nostalgia for periods of the past, but a tenderness in the people, places and things that populate our memory. More than just images on canvas, these paintings tell stories, not so much of themselves but they reach into the viewer’s mind’s eye and retrieve long forgotten imaginings of youth.
With a style akin to Edward Hopper, Charlie populates his canvases with faces both real and imagined. A common image throughout his work is his life-long love and constant companion Betty. When asked why he didn’t have a studio, Charlie said it was because he would have to leave home and that is where Betty is. So Charlie paints in his living room with his cats chewing on the light cord and his dog licking paint off a recently finished canvas. In this very intimate setting, Charlie has created a compilation of work that, unlike former works that Charlie calls “patchwork”, have a common theme.
I asked Charlie what, if anything he would like for people to gather from his life’s work. Granted, a tough question, but with his quiet contemplative style the answer was both reflective of a deeply committed artist and human.
“I do hope, regarding my adult work, they find that I captured the essence of a segment of American cultural identity. Not in a strictly nostalgic way, and certainly not in a jingoistic tone, but in a manner that exudes a basic truth about what it meant to be an American during the first half of the 20th century. The values of that period shaped who I am and I try to express that in my work.
I hope they recognize the importance of my family (parents, grandparents, siblings, and especially Betty) to my work. They are always my favorite subject matter.
I hope there is a thread of humor and wit that runs through the work as well. I try not to take myself too seriously and I try to infuse that in some of my work.”
Charlie Hukill: Fenders and Headlights will be on exhibit at the Center for Contemporary Arts March 8 through April 27, 2013.