Charles ChurchillMy little brother and I were born in the early 1940’s to an alcoholic family that today would be called dysfunctional.  My earliest memory is of riding in my grandfather’s car through Long Beach, California when an artillery shell screamed over our heads, exploding in a nearby oil field.  A Japanese submarine was shelling the United State’s west coast!

After the war my family moved to Las Vegas where life continued to be not so good.  My brother and I became what would now be called troubled children, but back then we were hoodlums.  A peek at my file revealed the word incorrigible.

During my 17th year all this began to change.  I discovered jazz!  Jazz was an invitation to a whole world of creativity I had no idea existed.  Up to that point life was, as the man said, short and brutal.  Jazz led directly to beat poetry, abstract art, and strangely but wonderfully, motorcycles.  A freedom from the mundane life of fighting and stealing auto parts came to me.  Billy Holiday, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ken Nordine, Jackson Pollock began to slack my thirst for beauty and knowledge, the true excitement of life.  Jack Kerouac and Zen Buddhism filled a soul I wasn’t even aware I had.  Somewhere, lurking in my depths, was an unborn artist.

While still in high school I joined the United States Naval Reserve.  The summer between my junior and senior years I went to Navy boot camp.  Two days after graduation, off I went to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.  I was the only person in my family who got out of Dodge.   Great Lakes was between Detroit and Chicago and jazz was every where!  While serving aboard a Navy destroyer off our country’s west coast, I bought a portable FM radio and listened to late night Jazz At The Light House and KBIG Avalon.  Jazz all the time!  After the navy I went to school in San Diego and met kindred spirits while the artist in me continued to gestate.

It wasn’t till 1971, when my son was born, that the artist in me was also born.  It seems as though the two arrived at exactly the same time.  Two months later my artistic birth was confirmed at the 1971 San Francisco retrospective of Louise Nevelson’s work.  Holding my son in my arms, trying to gulp down and absorb the beauty of Nevelson’s work, I felt the same addition to my consciousness that I’d experienced when I first heard jazz.  There was a thrilling expansion and I knew that I, too, was an artist.  At home I immediately began to make assemblages and collages; I still do today.

I worked at constructions and reliefs, teaching myself, until 1986 when I put myself through art school at Sonoma State University, and began to show and sell in 1989.  As early as 1981, however, I was using glass in my assemblages.  I lived behind a glass shop and had access to their scrap.  Michael Hayden came into my life in ’93; he taught me how to make light sculptures.    Then in 1999 I experienced a deeper sense of creativity when I began teaching assemblage to children and adults.  When, as a pear shaped man in 2001, I began working as a figure study model, I became the art so to speak, and listened to teachers.  Experiencing art from this other perspective added  new dimensions to my abilities as both sculptor and teacher.

My marriage in 1979 to storyteller Georgia Churchill has been a delight and has positively nurtured my becoming a man unafraid to call himself a professional artist.  From the beginning we have encouraged each other and together became working, earning artists, and eventually teachers.  My only complaint:  I think she, being in my opinion a fabulous painter, should paint more.  Never-the-less, listening to the wisdom woven into the oral tradition tales she tells feeds me softly and subtly, adding still another measure to my life as a sculptor and teacher.

What a wonderful ride my life has been and continues to be.  Art saves the day!