In following up an episode like Charles Burt’s with a written piece, it can be incredibly difficult to even begin to sift out the useful or impactful bits and translate them into a format like this, due to the quantity of seemingly important words, and seamless way one idea or perspective ties into the next. Regardless, Episode 21 of Forging Flame is HEAVY DUTY. Charles Burt is a dude with real grit and honor, and the powerful force of his spirit was apparent even through a Zoom window.
A bit of his bio—Charles spent 20 years of his life serving in the US Army, traveling the world and experiencing all the beauty and tragedy that came with the gig. Charles was then diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease shortly after retiring from the military, and made the metamorphic decision to follow his lifelong call of becoming an artist. He’d felt it since childhood, and went and got himself classically trained. Crazy, right? Not even close.
Humanity has always felt compelled to create, from the moment humans began to have ideas in their primitive brains. Before a written language ever developed, rudimentary drawings of successful hunts and fearsome predators bedazzled the walls of ancient caves. Humanity has always been coping with the need to try and understand itself, while simultaneously sharing the experiences and individual points of understanding (or discovery of a lack thereof) they’ve gathered with the rest of civilization, current and future.
The art of Charles Burt certainly has a story to tell. He paints still-life, highlighting objects and themes that reflect his military experience and life story. (Feel free to listen to the full episode if you want some of those specifics.) He does so in beautifully-realistic fashion. He doesn’t just paint photo-realistic artwork (despite the Parkinson’s), he paints a space in time. He’s channeling memories into his work, and leaving the observer to experience that specific time and place, with a sense of what I called in the episode, “reverent melancholy”.
Check out his work. You’ll see exactly what I mean.