A new collection of the mixed media art of Between The Lines columnist and venerable LGBT community institution Charles Alexander has just been released. The Scarab Club presents “The Art of Charles Alexander” by John Douglas Peters, a well-respected artist himself, sells for $49.95 from his Treasure Press with proceeds going to the Scarab Club, of which Alexander is a board member.
The book features 55 images of Alexander’s art throughout the years.
“I asked Charles to give me everything he had and we ended up with about 140 images,” said Peters of the process of putting the book together. “We had them all professionally imaged at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Then we had them all printed out. I laid the 140 out and tried to find a cohesive structure, which I ended up doing.
“I started picking out and cutting ones that were not as strong as others or may have had the same look,” Peters continued. “I would go to Charles and say, ‘What about this? What about that?’ and we worked back and forth.”
From start to finish, Peters said working on the project with Alexander was a joy.
“Working with him was an absolute pleasure,” he said. “He is a very introspective and cognitive person and could explain to me what he was trying to do with each particular piece. Although no artist likes doing it he was able to do it.”
Alexander has explained his process to Between The Lines before. In an article last year he said, “There is little conscious planning as I create my art. I work intuitively and rather quickly. I start with a geometric shape, a humorous or serious doodle, a fluid symbol fished from my subconscious, a newly minted hieroglyph or alphabet, sometimes a line expressive of energy and movement, and I proceed from there.”
Peters sees it the same.
“Spontaneity would be the word that would summarize his style,” Peters said. “He takes a piece of paper and he works on it until he feels it’s done.”
Peter said the two never argued while working on the project, and that they did the best job they could of presenting a comprehensive collection of Alexander’s work.
“What we didn’t have access to were images from the first ten years of his output,” he said.
“We also did not date any of the images because we could not date all of the images. So organizing them chronologically was not an option available to us.”
In the end, the collection is compelling and expressive, just like the artist, himself.
“I think it’s excellent,” said Peters. “I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about his work. Not only was his stuff very printable but he had enough of it so we could select a subset from the universe. And we ended up with a very wonderful subset, which wouldn’t have been available for most artists because they don’t have their work. Charles is so prolific that even though he has sold many, many images he still has many, many images because he does about one a day.”
Starting Friday, 25 of those images will be on view at the Scarab Club for the companion exhibit to the book, titled “Art and Autograph.” The exhibit runs Oct. 6 – Nov. 11 and both Alexander and Peters will be on hand opening night to sign books and meet and greet from 5-8 p.m.
The book release will mark the culmination of a friendship and mutual appreciation which goes back some 25 years.
“I first became aware of Charles’s work in 1992,” Peters recalled. “I thought it was unique and impressive and now that I’m retiring and do a few books I picked Charles to do the first book on because I thought his work was outstanding and should be seen by a broader audience.”
As for the artist, himself, he says the new collection of his work fills him with pride.
“I’m proud that I’ve used my art as an openly gay artist and that I have used many, many of my art pieces to benefit our rainbow community in times favorable, times challenging, times of great sorrow and tribulation,” said Alexander. “Our community is truly blessed with several gifted artists. I’m only one of many. But I’m proud especially that my art is the result because of my sobriety, which is now in its 36th year.”