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Charles Blackwell

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1. A Dream about a Horse is a Dream about Love: A friend told me that when you dream about a horse you are dreaming about someone you love. If you dream about riding a horse it means that you’ve won the person over. I painted this after having a dream about a horse.

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3. Number 5: Five means grace and is a Jazz quintet. This piece is influenced by Jasper Johns and his number series. I like the way he made them look like a printing press.

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6. Improvisation: I was given a piece of canvas with images of fruits and vegetables and turned it into a Jazz improvisation.

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9. Cityscapes - Attempting to Flee Depression: Sometimes I feel like the city is closing in on me, surrounded by hundreds of people yet feeling alone.

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10. The Disabled Abled in the Arts: People discovering wonder in themselves.

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13. One Drum Drum Away: Abstract improvisation was the technique that I used on paper and is reflected in the image itself.

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13. Disabled Demanding Rights: Reflects the history of the Rolling Quads who enlisted allies to use sledgehammers to create the first curb cuts, leading to a worldwide movement to force governments to mandate them on city streets.

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16. The Trane is Still Moving: This piece captures the music of Coltrane and the way that his music comes at you.

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2. Cityscapes Alienation: I did this during the pandemic and how isolated it felt.

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4. The Dancer: Represents the movement dimension of rhythm and the colors represent the freedom and joy of movement.

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5. African Tribal Mask: Capturing the beauty of the African roots of Black people - you can see it in the cheek bones, full lips and angles of the mask. It represents the beauty of the African diaspora.

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7. Political Mathematics: Sometimes politics feel arbitrary and frivolous.

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8. Madison Square Garden - Friday Night Boxing: I used to watch this on TV and remember the announcer's voice. When I visited New York City I realized that there’s hundreds of voices that sound just like that announcer.

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11. Drum Drums Drums Away: An interplay of movement and color that represent the stick hitting the symbol. Even though you don’t hear the sound, you see and feel it.

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12. Down Stairs in the Off-Blue with Rahsaan Roland Kirk: My blind brother who influenced me as an artist. I saw him perform once when I was in college and before I lost my eyesight. He was a completely blind Jazz musician who played three saxophones at the same time.

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15. Cityscapes - In Flight: In flight from the tension and the stress.

About the Artist


As a young man, Charles Blackwell’s visual art studies at Sacramento City College were cut short after he fell head-first down a steep slope, damaging his eyesight. An artist since a young age, Charles is now legally blind, only able to use some peripheral vision. He dropped out of school, struggling to reconcile his artistic dreams with his unexpected disability. “I thought, ‘Man, what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening to me?’”

Charles redirected his studies toward sociology and social work, but after graduate school struggled to find employment. “There’s more than just being able to go through daily life after losing your eyesight,” he says. “It comes down to an emotional side. There’s a lot of rejection. Boy, I got hit hard.”

When he went blind, Charles’ doctor told him, “take your defect and make it an asset.” Charles has grown to embody this phrase, continuing his lifelong passion of making art by using an entirely new style, freedom, and way of working to compensate for his limited vision. He creates his artwork using primarily ink and canvas, leaning in closely to see through his peripherals, and using rich, vibrant colors.

Charles is now living in Oakland, California. He has won numerous service awards for his volunteer work and advocacy for the arts, and has authored three books: Redemption Beyond Blindness; Fiery Responses to Love’s Calling; and Is, the Color of Mississippi Mud. Charles joined ArtLifting in August, 2016, after being referred through the community arts studio in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Now, his works are accessible across the United States, adorning walls, tote bags, notebooks, and phone cases. He hopes that by sharing his artwork he can increase his income, obtain stable housing, and continue to inspire as many people as possible.

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