(American, 1950-) was born in Niagara Falls, NY, in 1950 and graduated from North Tonawanda High School in 1968. He received his B.S. in Art Education from Buffalo State in 1973, and his Master’s Degree in 1978. He currently lives in Hamburg, teaching classes in design, ceramics, photography and architecture at Springville Griffith Institute.
Houseman has used long-held interests in music and American history to give a direction to his work. Although his work now echoes the nineteenth century American landscape paintings traditionally viewed as the Hudson River School and later Luminists, his influences draw from the work of Rauschenberg, Johns, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. While at college he studied with Joseph Piccillo. Through the years, his work has sublimated these influences, blending them into layers of sensibilities. With his wife Peg (a spinner and weaver), he travels to historic sites and villages, incorporating scenes visited by artists over the years, into his paintings.
A perpetual student, Houseman continues to work on technique, modifying his brushwork, working with lighting and atmosphere, and composition. He continues to set challenges, both stylistically and philosophically. As an instructor, he strives to recognize students who do the same, challenging students to learn new skills and increase confidence.
"The challenge of an early instructor, to “paint what you know”, continues as a unifying theme in my work. After all the given assignments, the exercises and projects, I find myself returning to the objects and environs that fascinated me, and fed my imagination, as a child. I could easily spend hours then, at the base of a tree, or with a handful of gathered sticks, constructing some miniature world. It strikes me now, as an adult, I do the same in my studio: As I paint, I can imagine the feel of the dirt, and the sticks in my hand. I can easily lose track of time while painting.
In earlier drawings, I would work with objects found in nature, in ethereal or unexpected surroundings. Realism was key, but I was trying to find an original “twist”. The more I looked for the original idea, the further I wandered from my original interest in the object. There is more than enough for me in trying to capture the essence of being at the scene; being in it; to make myself invisible, yet there to again feel the sun, to touch the rocks and smell the air.
As our life becomes more and more tethered to technology, I strain against the loss of these sensual moments. Art educators such as Thomas Dewey for generations have stressed the natural environment as stimulus for creativity. I now find myself having to remind students of the world they pass each day: usually seen through the veil of a glass window, or through the haze of white noise in their ears. It seems unnatural to have to show students the natural world that surrounds them, as they eagerly tread deeper into a world far removed from direct feeling.
My work obviously reflects the heady influence of 19th century painters: how can we deny the massive body of work of painters such as Church and Bierstadt? I am increasingly drawn to the quieter work of the Luminists and Transcendentalists. Symbolism is here, too, as much as the viewer cares to read into a work. Mainly, I only want to convey the sense of wonder I experience, in a spiritual sense, at that moment of simply being."
To view additional works or to contact the artist directly, please visit Charlie's new website charleshousman.com