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Free Time with Sandra Charles

Getting to know local artists, their work and how they spend their time
Credit: WHAS11
Sandra Charles photographed in her home studio

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Sandra Charles is a Louisville artist working in oil paint. Recently retired from her day job, Charles has been able to devote her full time to her art, which is currently showcased in two exhibits: Louisville Visual Art’s “Imagined Monuments” exhibit at Louisville Metro Hall and “The Art of Elmer Lucille Allen, Sandra Charles and Barbara Tyson Mosley” at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana. Her work can also be seen on permanent display at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Charles took a break from her work to tell us about how she spends her free time. Here’s what she had to say:

BACK TO SCHOOL I am an oil painter. I began my art career working as a batik fiber artist. It was part-time since I was working full-time. In 2011 I returned to school and in 2015 I obtained a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in painting from the University of Louisville. When my company offered early retirement in 2016 I jumped at the opportunity and now I enjoy a full-time career as an artist.

Credit: WHAS11
"Living Monument, Angela Hollingsworth" at Louisville Metro Hall. Oil on Canvas. 48"x60"

WORKING IN OIL I love working with oil because I like the way the texture of the paint mixes on the canvas. Oil has a warmth about it that brings a painting to life.

My work celebrates the self-esteem of African American women through interpretative portraiture. I try to look behind the façade of social perceptions and attempt to capture the removal of the hegemonic veil which covers the struggle between self and the perceived social order. Moving away from traditional portraits, my body of work mixes this history and self along with color and stances that project an attitude of defiance. The facial expressions of the women in my paintings contain the history of their progress and their new-found confidence.

Credit: WHAS11
Charles with her painting "Queen Llinga of the Congo." Oil on canvas. 48"x60." In background (L-R): "Pam, Faith" 30"x30" and "Maya, Wisdom" 30"x30"

FINDING INSPIRATION I split my downtime into two types of activities. The first involves doing physical activity such as gardening, walking or just enjoying being outside. Each year I look forward to spring and cleaning out the flower beds, preparing them for new flowers. Being outside is so refreshing and regenerating. When I have large projects I will make it a whole family affair by enlisting my husband, children, grandkids and friends over to help out. These occasions are full of fun and laughter. 

Credit: WHAS11
Detail of "Posing in the Rain." Oil on canvas. 36"x48"

My other downtime activity is learning and reading. I love to learn about history, astronomy and art. Most of the books in my personal library are on these subjects. I truly believe the more we learn about our past and the world around us, the more connected we are to each other. If I can’t find a book to read then I’ll check out what’s on the science, history or National Geographic channels on cable. Even though these activities seem not to be related to my art they affect my creativity. It was from reading about African Kingdoms that I discovered unknown powerful queens. They became the inspiration for my African Warrior Queen series. 

Credit: WHAS11
A sampling of Charles' library, which includes books on the topics of astronomy, history and art.

Two of Charles’ paintings from her African Warrior Queen series are on permanent display at the Kentucky International Convention Center. The “Imagined Monuments” exhibit at Metro Hall ends July 12th, and the “Art of Elmer Lucille Allen, Sandra Charles and Barbara Mosley” exhibit at the Carnegie Center for Art and History ends April 20th. To learn more about Charles and to view her work head to scharlesart.com.