Michael Charron – Catacomb Saints Series – Adventures in Mysticism
The word catacomb brings forth imagery of mysterious underground passageways and otherworldly dwelling places for the dead, joined with the word ‘saints’ and you have an entirely new level of spiritual communion.
Artist Michael Charron may be best known for his site specific Colorado landscapes that he creates after first packing into the Rocky Mountains with llamas. “I use llamas to go into the back-country and paint views that few people see. Those excursions include many adventures, some scary and some serene,” claims Charron. He believes that llama treks are trending for those artists interested in enlightenment and opportunity to experience nature up close and personal in a plein-air experience like no other.
In 1978, Charron created his first ‘underpainting’ prayer. What is an underpainting prayer, you ask? It is imagery that lies beneath the exterior of another painting, like a hidden gem. “This painting featured an invented cursively written prayer ultimately enveloped by oil painted images of two pistol-carrying cherubs decorated with spooky faces.” Since then, EVERY studio landscape of his has contained a prayer that Charron now calls an “Optical Communion”, as expressed in his artist statement. Charron adds, “In the spirit of my landscape underpaintings each panel under the Catacomb Saints has my ‘device’. The device represents a lemniscate as well as a symbol for a spiritual tool for reconciling very difficult life events. The tool is what I call The Multiple Dimensions of Perception.”
Charron describes his underpaintings as, “polychromatic visual narratives, both archetypal and arcane,” he says. “This practice of writing prayers is a fusion of ecclesiastical and spiritual imagery. Incorruptible Saints, the mystical and contemporary science informs the underpainting.” He further states that these paintings are about the menacing, perverse, mystical and enigmatic characteristics of religiosity expressed, simultaneously with the wisdom tradition of Gnosticism.
Our meeting took place one afternoon last November in a coffee shop along the Tennyson Street Arts District, Denver, Colorado. The conversation ran the gamut from love, religion and society to artist/audience expectations. There is certainly something exciting and romantic in conversing with an artist who is not only talented in their medium of choice but also whose knowledge of Gnosticism and religion can ignite the imagination and challenge the published or believed ‘rules of religion’.
This latest progression of Charron’s art embraces everything around him and it is understandable that the direction of his paintings would evolve into the Catacomb Saints series it is today. And, with that evolution, Catacomb Saints asks us to question our own immortality. “My overt and consistent exploration of spirituality is what keeps me sane and my greatest inspiration comes from what is identified as Divinity,” proclaims Charron. His journeys in the backcountry and spiritual openness makes this new series a proclamation of life itself. With the addition of a reliquary, a container for religious relics, Charron has again taken his Saints series to another level of consciousness.
His reliquary holds vials of priest blessed water from the Grotto of the Apparitions, semi-precious gemstones, and oil emitted from a picture of the Virgin Mary from the home of an Iraqi-born Chaldean Catholic who has experience numerous visitations by the Blessed Mother. Another vial holds a human molar, incisor and phalange, rodentia and ornithological remains, cast into resin.
Charron explains that his philosophy regarding work is, “that it must be done way beyond the typical American 40-hour work week.” He continues, “Artist are selfish by nature. Therefore, when they pull themselves away from their studios, family should be in the forefront of outside interests. In life, it is important to develop an informed awareness around heart centered living and to simply do the next right thing regardless of causes and conditions.” He goes on to explain that when he begins a new piece within his Catacomb Saint series, “My first thought leads to an emotive state, that being authentic joy and serenity. Clearly there are formal, aesthetic and conceptual concerns as I go into working on any piece, however its the knowing that I’ll be entering lengthy periods of spiritual and physiological alignment as a result of image making,” states Charron. “Creativity is the essence of Source/Consciouness (God), when humans are creating, they’re connected and best reflecting their divine nature.”
Over the years Charron has learned a few tricks to the trade and shares his insight. “I would advise anyone entering this industry to learn some basic business skills. For a great many artists, galleries are not an option in these times, therefore most artists will need to represent themselves. To best do this, they must learn how to sell which includes getting over the fear of selling. That and recognizing passive marketing modalities – i.e. websites – are ‘presentation’ mode, not ‘closing’,” declares Charron.
The Catacomb Saints series will be showcased November 5th – November 30th, 2020, in a solo exhibition “WILDERNESS, SERPENTS & SAINTS – An Artist’s Odyssey” at the Pine Street Church Gallery, 1237 Pine Street, Boulder, CO, 80302. Opening Reception still to be determined, however the work may be viewed by appointment.
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- All Images Provided and Copywritten by Michael Charron
- Feature Image: “Catacomb Saint and Wisdom Halo” 22″x24″, Mixed media assemblage $1500