Charles Wish


Track # 5) Dream and nightmares

Music from Fernando Poo


Truman’s Eden & The Neuroses of Sayyid Qutb
33x48,” Oil on Canvas on Wood


I am a painter born, raised and currently residing in southern California. Experts tell me that I suffer from an acute, 902-eleven complex -- too many tennis lessons and not enough hugs. I really have no idea what they're talking about.

Anyhow, my work generally deals with the duality of provincial and progressive ideals inherent in the American psyche. The positive side to this is that (through moderation) we Americans possess the opportunity to marry the best of both notions -- remaining true to our regional culture while simultaneously staying open to foreign, universal concepts. The negative side is that we are often fiercely conflicted and twofaced, being either insular or eclectic... only when it suits our ever-changing needs. Described as "Surregional" by Rick Manore (Director of CPop Gallery, Detroit, Michigan) these images are dedicated to all who daydream about finding cultural identity in America today.

“…collectively, true multiculturalism no longer exists because true regionalism no longer exists… what we have now is a culture of individuals… and all there beautiful hybrids….”

Charles Wish and “Surregionalism” Unbound

Born in Los Angeles (1971) as Frederick Charles Peters and raised in the San Fernando Valley area, Charles Wish began his artistic journey as the child of divorced parents, exploring both the cornfields and music subcultures of Van Nuys. Following a serious bicycling accident at age thirteen, Wish endured brain surgery coupled with a long recovery, later completing high school in 1989. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) in painting and visual arts from the University of Arizona , Tucson (1993) after transferring from Pierce College in Woodland Hills , California . Six years passed in a series of jobs to pay student loans; in late 1993, the artist began his informal studies of the regionalists, after noticing similarities in the works of Grant Wood, Tibetan art and Christo Javacheff's landscape installations. During 1994-1998, while employed at a Los Angeles-based screen printing company, Wish worked on a single, large painting that set the early tones for his later work while corresponding with monks at the Ramakrishna Monastery in Trabuco County . Here he would attend lectures and took Sanskrit classes, continually expanding his knowledge of Tantric Buddhism, Indian history, and Hindu thought.

Unable to find a graduate art program to meet his unique interests in regionalism and Asian art, Wish agreed to stay at the monastery as an extended guest worker, first employed as primary caregiver to the aging parents of a senior, American swami (1997-1999). A second job opportunity arose in 2001, that of personal assistant to the head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, Swami Swahananda. Wish accepted the position, managing the Swami's daily affairs while handling larger, hospitality demands for the monastery. He continued with his religious instruction, actively meditated, designed several book jackets, and won an international illustration award. After roughly thirty months in this demanding job, Wish left the monastery in 2003, and then launched his formal life as a professional artist.

A core of Wish's significant paintings pair South Asian religious symbols with classic Americana or seminal works associated with Grant Wood or Thomas Hart Benton. The Asian tradition of infusing landscapes with rolling lines, color, and shading was first proposed in landmark art instruction texts by Arthur Wesley Dow (1899), founder of the arts and crafts movement. Both Wood and Benton would have been highly familiar with Dow's theories and techniques; each man would later immortalize common Midwestern scenes, celebrating the beauty of local people and environments, rising to become leaders of the American regionalist art movement. As boundaries for world cultures have dissolved, Wish capitalizes on the reality that every culture has been affected and changed by outside influence; the common ground of modern man is to harmonize multiple cultures, to essentially create his own individuality from an infinite repository of choices. For Wood, Midwestern (and American) culture divined its power from the lives of ordinary men; for Wish, blending Asian motifs with American ideals creates a universal culture, a Promethean effect blending time and space.

Wish's impetus in leaving the monastery, the visions of Tantric goddesses having intense relationships with regionalist landscapes, manifested itself in the early 1990s. The two distinct schools of thought are described by the artist as the “dominating characters in my conflicted, visual vocabulary.” Even as they seem diametrically opposed, Wish pairs South Asian themes evoking infinite possibilities, mystery, and chance, with provincial scenes embracing cultural preservation and long-standing tradition. The cumulative effect, for both the artist and the viewer, results in an inclusive approach, seeking the substantial essence in everything until “only the divine remains.” For Wish, all elements are worthy of exploration and use in his artistic efforts to address cross-cultural individuality and existentialism.

A series of 2004-2005 exhibitions in Hollywood , California (Alternative Space) and in Culver City , California (Copronason Gallery) mark the genesis of Wish's professional success. His first solo show at the CPop Gallery in Detroit , Michigan (2005) garnered much critical attention, with his method described as “surregionalism” by the gallery's founder, Rick Manore. Represented by L'Imagerie Gallery in Studio City , California and married to Abbigail Cooke, Wish maintains a private studio and recently purchased a northwestern Pennsylvania schoolhouse that will be restored and converted into summer art colony and retreat space.

Kristy Raine
Reference Librarian & Archivist, Mount Mercy College
Cedar Rapids, Iowa



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