Eyed at the truth- both metaphorically dark and light, Charlie McAlister explores his own state of thought, imagination and dream with artistic deliberation. His work is rooted in this purge of curiosity and restless contemplation. McAlister crosses all mediums. Apart from his recent use of liquid acrylics and mixed media on large vellum panels, he works with all variations of paper including printed books and magazines. His paintings and larger works on canvas and wood embody nothing less of a magnetizing and thrilling quality- evoking thought, laughter and aesthetic hypnotism. He recently completed a 3 year project on a single sheet of paper- 30 feet long, ultimately compiling his work into a stream of consciousness.
Born and raised in the Charleston area, Charlie McAlister has been affected by the Holy City's massive growth, tourism and development over the past few decades. Specifically the concept of real estate and how it facilitates the commercialization and gentrification of the Charleston area. McAlister explores these realities in German illustrative style most notably in his series ‘Sour Grapes’, a collaboration with artist Dirka Dir, (Dana Heikes).
Charlie McAlister’s work encompasses styles of that seen in the fauvist painters. Lead by Henri Matisse, fauvism was loosely shaped by group of artists sharing a similar approach to nature, uninspired by older, traditional methods of perception, but with no definitive program. This is similarly definitive of McAlister; seeking more than an impression of the minds-eye.
Historically rooted and inspired by Charleston's nastier history, Charlie McAlister conceptualized and crafted a puppet theater built and viewed through the top of a flat-back Piano. Inside delicately hangs individual hand-painted puppets which are used in McAlister’s following play. In his short performance, McAlister tells a story of Charleston's history with slavery, sailors, and the city’s preluding fear of foreigners.
Characteristically spontaneous, and often a subjective response to nature, Charlie McAlister’s work is like something of a brilliantly wandering thought. As if each piece is an artistic translation- expressed in bold, undisguised brushstrokes. McAlister is both humorous and playful, yet ultimately instinctual and truth-seeking.
McAlister has studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
His work has been exhibited across the US; and internationally in Berlin, Germany at NeuroTitan.
Visual Artists Profile: Charlie McAlister
SEPTEMBER 26, 2014 | Elizabeth Bowers
As a musician, Charlie McAlister’s records have been sent to Brooklyn, New Zealand. As an artist, his pieces hang in Baltimore and Chicago. But in Charleston, where McAlister is from and has lived the majority of his life, too little of the population knows his name.
Just like his music and art, one can collect Charlie McAlister stories. There was this one time at SXSW in Austin when McAlister came out on stage not to perform in the regular musical way, but instead he melted a bunch of things in a skillet. The wine and cheese he serves at art openings is hooch and Kraft singles. He stays up till 4 A.M. recording records at his house in McClellanville, SC, long after the band has called it a day. He plays music with a potato sack over his head. He works on a boat, and if you flub and drop your keys over the side, he’ll spend 30 minutes fishing with a magnet to help you.
Bear in mind, this is all hearsay. He’s a man of legends. Then you meet him and you’re equally certain and uncertain that it’s all true. He’s a practical guy who always wears a cut off t-shirt sleeve on his head to catch his sweat in humid Charleston. And his eyes hint at a life lived for the opposite of practicality—for adventure.
McAlister’s most accessible art are his chapbooks* and Sardine Magozine. (Yes, that’s an “o.”) Sardine includes product reviews, parking tickets, destruction and flooding in the city, and photos of open fields with the caption,
“What they gon’ build?” He says, “I named itSardines because I was kind of getting into eating sardines at the time.”
But it has to mean more, right? The symbolism of how sardines are packed into a vacuum-sealed can seems to pair perfectly with the major theme in his art: according to him, the development of Charleston.
McAlister illustrates his point with a simple business example:
“Everybody I know is talking about it. Those guys on the docks! Shem Creek is the perfect example of how this city is changing. These paddle boarding companies have come in, and they charge $40 to rent one for four hours. That’s how you can make money down there. It’s tough for the shrimpers to make a living on those docks now.”
Then he goes into this great story about a baby manatee knocking a girl off a paddle board.
Recently, McAlister started showing his art at Rebekah Jacob Gallery, which seemed completely out of character for him, but it makes sense too.
“I’m tired of my art just sitting around. And I’m getting older now. 45. It’s time to just let things go. They’re nice folks, and they have a nice space.”
RJG hangs a combination of hard edge painting and ink on mylar. They have cucumbers with “ME” written on one side and “MAYOR JOE RILEY” on the other. McAlister leaves what they mean up to viewers. He says he just grew vegetables that were too big to eat, so he found another use.
And, again, this is what good artists do: give it to you straight, but leave you questioning everything.
1. A small book or pamphlet of popular tales, ballads, etc., formerly hawked about by chapmen. 2. A small book or pamphlet, often of poetry. Origin 1790-1800
From the Depths
April, 2005 | John Darnielle
It's not every day that you get to scratch seven or eight years' worth of poison-oak caliber itch, but that's exactly what happened last night on the first date of my three-week spring tour. It was Charleston, South Carolina, and Charlie McAlister'd copped the opening slot. Charlie first came to my attention when he started sending tapes to the greatly-missed Car In Car Disco Product label, which dutifully released them; he was a shadowy figure in the cassette underground throughout the mid-nineties, if by "shadowy" you mean "totally cool in a where'd-he-come-from where'd-he-go living-legend kinda mystery guy." His Mississippi Luau album on Catsup Plate is one of my favorite records of all time. (As an aside, let me note that despite my longstanding philosophical opposition to Best Albums of All Time lists, I have got the urge lately to make a list of Them Albums What I'd Generally Consider My Very Favorite Ones Ever, and will probably get around to it sometime in the next year or two.)
Charlie's music could probably be described by any number of not-quite-right music terms: it's back-porch jug band stuff, sorta, but it's got a real affinity with guerilla noise warfare, and also with actual gorillas, who nine times out of ten will make the guerillas look like amateurs. It's got that organic Neutral Milk Hotel feel, but its spiritual side isn't the transcendent schtick that Jeff Mangum mastered and then put behind him; Charlie's spiritual kin are the mediums who charge you a quarter for an hour's worth of Ouija board in a shack down the highway near some southern beach town, and you think they're maybe fulla shit but then they hit that huckster vein where it's not really a con any more because everybody's agreed to just ride the moment out even if it did start out phony. Charlie's the wizard in Kansas without any MGM sanitization. He likes rum.
So what can I tell you? Not much. His band was a five-piece, I think; they had a tuba; Charlie broke four strings on his banjo during the first song; their rendition of "Death from the Depths" was so damn good it made me want to holler, and I did; his vocal delivery makes everybody else's sound mannered and stuffy, which is remarkable considering just how great his lyrics are: they are up there with anybody's you could name; he did not play "Island of the Robot Building Monkey," an oversight for which I shall never forgive him; it was one of the best shows I've seen in ages and it reminded me just how fantastic an artist Charlie McAlister is. There are a lot of fake-ass artists out there. You can tell who they are 'cause they are always thinking about how they are artists. Charlie is real-ass artist who just does the do. He should get a Nobel.
One other McAlister-related matter of importance. I copped his 'zine. It's a proper old-fuckin'-school ZINE, people; no web presence, no email address, no promotional strategy. No actual ads. It's called SARDINE MAGOZINE and when I try to describe just how great it is, page after page - hilarious, surreal, occasionally moving, genuinely educational, utterly obsessed with tinned fish - well, words fail me. I can't vouch for how quick Charlie'll get back to you, but I can promise that no matter how long you have to wait, it'll be worth it. I got mine for two-fifty but postage ain't free, Jack: put three or four bucks in the mail to P.O. Box 24, Johns Island, SC 29455. You'll be ecstatic that you did.
Attempts at uncovering the elusive Charlie McAlister: