For years, artist and Long Island native Charles Wildbank practiced the craft of photorealism in his paintings, a technique he studied in the early 1970s at Pratt University. He became famous for his giant sparkling painting of the Cartier diamond and life-like portraits of artists like Luciano Pavarotti.
But Wildbank, a 63-year-old now residing in Jamesport, where he also has an art gallery, said that he reached a threshold with straight realism and began to dive into more of an inner world, expressing himself on the canvas with emotional portraits of children, moving seascapes and florals.
“I paint more than what meets the eye with motion and emotion,” he said. “I love nature and the cosmos. You have to have some flamboyancy in order to have more liveliness in the work, to bring together all the elements.”
Many of his paintings are now on display at and will remain on the walls for the next two months. And they do make the place come alive, with the waves of vivid seascapes seeming to move before your eyes, the thick paint strokes literally popping out of the canvas.
Wildbank said he is between shows at the moment and is looking for new representation in East End art dealer circles. He lived for years in California but moved to Jamesport in 1989, where he’s made a living selling portraits and flirting with the abstract and surreal at his gallery, set up in a historic barn.
“I had to come back to New York — my roots are here, and I’m well-oriented with the art museums in the Hamptons and Greenport,” he said. “And my wife and I love taking walks along Peconic Bay — love everything organic about the North Fork.”
His latest achievements include two 18-foot-high murals commissioned by the Cunard Line for the new luxury ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2 in New York City — a mammoth project that took him six months to plan an six months to paint. But he loved every minute of it, he said.
“I love working in public spaces,” he said. “The Queen Mary 2 reaffirmed that for me.”
Wildbank, who is deaf, is listed with some of his works in Deaf Artists in America: Colonial to Contemporary book by Deborah Sonnenstrahl. With a degree in education from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, Wildbank also taught special education in elementary schools for a time.
But deafness, he said, doesn’t make him see the world much differently than someone who is not.
“The only time it occurs to me is when someone brings it up, otherwise it’s a non-issue,” he said. “It does effect the way I met people socially but it doesn’t keep me from enjoying other things in life. You can feel sound — sound is motion, it travels in the waves of the sea. We do conceive of it in many ways.
“And there are ways around deafness as well. When I was a child, I drew pictures to get around it, to get anything I wanted,” he continued. “I could express myself on a piece of paper. And now I do the same thing on canvas.”
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