Charles E. Wissinger
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Charles E. Wissinger

All of existence, human activity included, is riveted together by the press of countervailing forces. Every action is balanced by a reaction, thus it is prudent to contemplate long term implications of shortsighted ventures. Humanity is the faintest of flickers in the broader spectrum yet what pervasive impact we have wrought and what are the implications?
The environmental decline, inhumanity and aesthetic blight in which we wallow are self-inflicted. A myopic view of what it is to be human has allowed profit driven expedience to be elevated to a core cultural value. All existence has been given a price tag. Time has become money, and the lowest bidder owns the day. Everything and everyone have been relegated to commodity status. The very essence of being has been offered up on the altar of profit. I doubt that the lowest bidder built the Taj Mahal, and our time is money obsession would have rendered Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise highly improbable in its day. It is my belief that our money/expedience-laden values have locked us into a genuine darkage.

I am intrigued by North American cultures interaction with nature and our simplistic understanding of what it is to be human. As a society, and as individuals, we have become disassociated from the rest of creation. With footprints etched on the moon we exhibit little comprehension of our footing within the broader continuum. We have set ourselves apart from our world; going forth subduing and having dominion over it, carving it into ever smaller chunks for easy digestion, destabilizing the closed systems on which we depend. This fractured swirl alienates us from the natural order, others and ourselves, leaving neurosis and heartache in its wake.

We think, therefore, we aren’t. Spiritual, animal and mythical garments have been shed, closeted away so as not to impede our rational preoccupation with amassing wealth. Barricaded in suburbs, drugged by hundreds of channels, we hide from the whispers of our suppressed selves. Failure to embrace the total self and the paradoxes in which we live leaves us to wander in a one-dimensional desert devoid of magic.

Though these concerns are reflected in my work I seldom indulge in literal story telling. No attempt is made at stridency or evangelism. Instead the intent is to create quiet focal points that elicit contemplative reflection. Lineal narrative gives way to an interplay of abstract, symbolic and metaphorical juxtaposition that hopefully reveals the possibility of a richer holistic way of viewing life.

If I never made another image it would matter very little. Stature gained, as an artist, however, has allowed me to affect my world in quite meaningful ways. As an artist I can serve as healer, community builder, and an ambassador. With my art ego checked and no axes to grind I, as an artist, can move through our segmented society more easily than most, to function as a bridge builder.
This requires every bit as much creativity as the self-indulgent act of art making.

My work meanders across a spectrum of concepts, stylistic approaches, and media: from loosely narrative to purely abstract; from stoneware mugs to monolithic salt fired sculpture; from drawing to porcelain to wood, steel, stone and clay mixes; from intimate mythscapes to six meter high public installations. It may seem a bit scattered, but with scrutiny the common threads binding the work together become apparent.

In terms of media I find myself increasingly drawn to clay mixed with other materials i.e. welded steel, wood, stone, bone, found objects, etc. The use of juxtaposed materials is often more responsive to creative impulse than clay used alone. This is particularly the case when trying to create a sense of dialectic or opposition as is central to my work. Clay continues, with its pleasures and pain, to be my preferred medium. Frustration with its cumbersome nature is outweighed by clay’s inherent ability to capture raw tactile energy. I enjoy walking into new situations cold without preconceived ideas, sketches, tools etc. to see what happens. I believe an artist should be able to step outside of preconception to field what ever comes down the pike. For an image to transcend the mundane it must reflect the universal dynamic balance alluded to above. Remove this tension and the magic dies and image is reduced to merely craft.