Note: interspersed here are images from a visit or two to Dr Charles Smith’s art environment in Hammond, Louisiana
In the NYT, A Self-Taught Artist Takes His Roadside Acropolis North: Outside the art establishment for decades, Charles Smith has sculpted his Black heroes in Aurora, Ill., and now in Hammond, La. At 81, he’s getting his first show in New York.
That’s Dr Charles Smith’s (if you’ve ever wondered, the Dr is a self-bestowed honorific, as the Times put it, to denote “the depths of knowledge I have accumulated in this life.”) work, that many of us know from his art environment / home in Louisiana. The exhibit is at White Columns, ‘New York’s oldest alternative non-profit space’.
Smith was born in New Orleans, and moved to Chicago as a teen. He attended the funeral of Emmett Till, served as a Marine in Vietnam during the war there, and since has become a community advocate, social worker, educator, speaker, and more.
He established his “African-American Heritage Museum + Black Veterans’ Archive” at his home in in Aurora, Illinoia with its 600+ works, then in 2001 moved to Hammond, Louisiana where he continued making his sculptures. The majority of works from the Aurora site went to museums, and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin has 218 pieces. Those with his work in their permanent collection include Smithsonian American Art Museum; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan; National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago; The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, Augusta; and the Milwaukee Art Museum, among others.
The White Columns show includes 30 smaller sculptures he’s made more recently from Hammond. The exhibit will be up from now through September 10 of this year.