The National Sculptors' Guild is saddened to hear that former Guild member, Sharles, passed away on Sunday, he was 83. Flora and Fauna were his subject matter, he explored it for decades in every media and method. As collectors of the eccentric artist know, his love for nature lives on in each one of his sculptures, paintings and textiles. Some favorites were his earthy Ikebana Series and the vibrant Classical Vases formed of Iris and daffodils; frogs, lizards and dragonflies often found their way into a composition.
We represented Sharles from 1994-2008, showing his art in our galleries in Colorado and New Mexico. We placed hundreds of his vessels and smaller works, as well as a number of large-scale bas-reliefs. Our largest placement through the Guild came in 2001 when we installed "The Amaryllis Fountain" in the Civic Plaza of the City of Cerritos, California. Images show various points in the creation of the multifaceted sculpture that featured a central 9ft tall bronze Amaryllis surrounded by Four vignettes of a Swan, Frog, Koi and Turtle accompanied by sculpted water lilies, and shorter stemmed amaryllis, plus natural aquatic plants. Water streams from the center of each flower in the 16-ft diameter composition. All finished in his signature vibrant colors; Sharles never shied away from a bold stroke of color. Click here to see more of this project. We are pleased that people will continue to enjoy his unique vision of the world through his art.
In one of his last artist statement's, Sharles captures his love of many things, evident in his imagery filled with as many animals, flowers, and colors that could fit in the composition...
"I have always been fascinated by the beauty of flowers, butterflies, frogs, lizards and colorful birds that I found as a youth in my grandmother’s garden. Their brilliant colors drew me like a magnet, and their lasting imagery became imprinted in my mind for life. The interaction of small wildlife, delicate flowers and organic forms remain the foundation of all my art work. After moving away from the more orthodox genres of Western art, I began to incorporate the artistic traditions of English Wedgwood, Italian Malacia pottery, and Japanese decorative art. It felt natural for me to sculpt in the popular art forms of the Victorian Age; creating vases, bowls, candlesticks, bookends, trays, baskets and paper weights embellished with decorative flowers, insects, song birds, frogs, lizards and dragonflies. Following my own muse, my art is created for the sake of beauty. The guiding principles in my art are the oriental concepts of natural, imperfect beauty. Small, organic casting blemishes and tool marks are retained encouraging unusual organic textures, wax-flow lines that indulge the creative idiosyncrasies while incorporating the ancient art of lost-wax casting techniques. I approach each bronze as a unique piece of art. My work is design driven as I continue to push boundaries, exploring daily the possibilities of "what can be" in each piece, versus what it presently is. I treasure pieces that resonate with the feel of another era, time, and place." -Sharles
Sharles was born in Italy of American parents on their honeymoon while visiting European relatives. The family was forced to sit out the war in Britain, and when the war ended, traveled home. But the transition to post-war United States was not an easy one. His parents divorced, leaving a 5 year-old Sharles to be raised by various relatives in a sparse ranching/farm environment of Colorado and Wyoming.
This early childhood led Sharles to believe he was born in that rural area for most of his adult life. His parents wanted to forget, and erase all memories of the war experiences and lacking the long lost Italian birth papers enrolled him in school via borrowed credentials and name of a near cousin. Art collectors, artists, friends, and the world, only know him today by his signature and professional art name of “SHARLES”.
At the age of 10, his Boston grandmother removed him from the Midwest, not wanting her grandson to become a cowboy. She was a stylish, sophisticated widow, self-made businesswoman who was a very successful art and antique dealer to wealthy East Coast collectors.
Sharles spent his teens immersed in the totally different world of Boston and foreign travel, art museums, and his grandmother’s art business. He assisted his grandmother in her antique store, and on buying trips to India, France, Italy, China, and Japan. In addition to his own cultural heritage of English, French, and Italian art, he was immersed in many other cultures and educated about the antiques and decorative arts associated with his grandmother’s business.
His grandmother was a passionate collector of art and loved flowers. These were common interests shared with her best friend, Grace Wedgwood who was related to the famous English Wedgwood pottery family. Grace Wedgwood was Sharles’ Godmother. These two loving guardians took an active role in his education, privately tutoring him on trains, ocean liners, and in hotel rooms. Sharles received a rare education in the techniques, forms, and artistic values of the decorative arts that were intrinsic to the famed Wedgwood pottery. Both his grandmother and godmother were dedicated collectors of Wedgwood, oriental bronzes, porcelains, flower paintings, Italian and French art. These experiences constituted a rich and enduring art education that in time were major influences in his art.
The daily contact with art and flowers became embedded in Sharles’ psyche, and would later come to his aid and ultimate rescue. In 1982 he suffered a serious car accident in Loveland, Colorado, a small farming community. Left as a semi-invalid with almost total amnesia, Sharles struggled to recover. He was stranded, not knowing his past, home, or friends.
While recovering in Loveland, which had a small bronze foundry, Sharles began observing some of the local sculptors, George Lundeen, Fritz White, Danny Ostermiller, Glenna Goodacre, and Kent Ullberg. He gradually began picking up sculpting techniques and learned the casting process. At first, Sharles created the type of western images that were being produced by the other local artists: Indians, eagles, buffaloes, and other western genre.
But one auspicious day while sculpting, Sharles surrendered to the intense pressures of his unremembered past. His subconscious adoration of flowers, plants and nature, so strongly instilled by his deceased grandmother, became dominant themes. These memories were his inspiration in creating functional and decorative arts as he discarded the local, popular art trends.
Not knowing if it could even be done, Sharles began experimenting with creating iris flowers in soft wax. He attempted to sculpt delicate flower shapes with wet clay techniques, as the Wedgwood potters had done. Sharles attached these flowers to functional forms, creating extraordinary floral vases, candlesticks, elaborate candelabras, bowls and other types of vessels. The inspiration of his sculptural style remained a mystery to Sharles for many years as it had all flowed so effortlessly from his mind through his hands.
The bronzes were finished with patinas that were bright natural colors of greens, golds, pinks, and purples that seemed to surprise and even shocked the art world. So much so, that major galleries were afraid of the purple, blue green patinas and reluctant to show them, having no sales record by which to judge them. After all, their collectors were buying traditional wildlife and Western art in the customary French-brown patina.
In 1987 Sharles was accepted into the 3rd Annual Loveland Sculpture in the Park Show. At that time, it was a small event organized by local peer artist, George Lundeen, Dan Ostermiller, George Walbye, Fritz White, and Hollis Wilford. It has since become the most important national sculpture show in the United States. For 23 years, Sharles has participated in this annual juried show of nationally, celebrated sculptors.
Sharles continued to add to his decorative portfolio, waiting for the right gallery to represent him. Finally, Pam Driscoll, of the Driscoll Gallery, saw this new work at the SCULPTURE IN THE PARK art show. Famous wildlife sculptor Sandy Scott was instrumental in convincing Pam to show his work in her aspen gallery and with hesitation, agreed to show four or five pieces in her gallery. She was astonished when all five bronzes sold as they were being unpacked. Women particularly loved the colorful, decorative bronzes. Word spread of the immediate sales in Driscoll Gallery, and Sharles soon had more galleries contacting him for his floral decorative work than he could handle.
In 1990, Sharles was one of the many highly talented sculptors from Loveland invited to participate in the Continental Airline’s Sculpture Showcase; a show that would tour the major international airports across the United States for three years. This event exhibited the top sculptors from Loveland: Kent Ullberg, George Lundeen, Fritz White, Hollis Wilford, Steve Kestrel, and other promising artists; adding sculptors as it progressed through the country. Sharles was delegated with the honor of sculpting a bronze centerpiece for the opening night. With the loosely stated theme of “flight”, the requested sculpture seemed of little significance in light of the high caliber of art being showcased. With only three weeks to complete, it was an inspired rush-job. The centerpiece created was a 5 1/2 foot totem-like structure of turtles, iguanas, and birds, crowned with the head of a Native American. The sculpture symbolized man learning the principles of flight from gliding sea turtles, and birds that had evolved from dinosaurs and reptiles. The piece, “Evolution of Flight,” was so successful opening night that it was given a place in the traveling sculpture show. This showstopper, exotic piece, amazed and awed viewers, but none more so, than the airline that had anticipated seeing a French-brown eagle, or some historical rendition of Kitty Hawk.
Both the “Evolution of Flight” sculpture and the traveling show solidified the career of Sharles as a professional sculptor, almost over night. He had embarked on both projects as a totally unknown artist and had revealed just a tip of the iceberg.
Sharles was invited into the National Sculptors' Guild in 1994, helping him to place his artwork publicly in large-scale for the first time in Palm Desert, California later that year. He showed his iris-clad bronze vessels and bas-reliefs and fountains, each full of creatures hidden in the leaves in the Guild's galleries in Loveland, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico and in 1996 the March issue of Southwest Art Magazine published a sizeable article followed by a similar piece in May/June 1998 Art of the West Magazine; further putting Sharles on the map. Sharles is also a member of the Society of Animal Artists at that time.
In 2000, the National Sculptors' Guild's proposal of Sharles' Amaryllis Fountain was selected by the City of Cerritos; a major public art installation for the civic plaza near their new public library. The final design was a bronze of a giant, red amaryllis flower and purple lotus flowers incorporated into a 16-foot multi-piece water fountain. This included sculptures of amaryllis flowers, lotus flowers, lilly pads and oversized frog, swan, gold fish and turtle in the completed fountain that was installed near the new library in 2001.
In 2006, Sharles was selected by the City of Loveland, Colorado to place two, circular, 32″ bas-reliefs of California quail, pear cacti, lizards, sunflowers, and birds for placement in the famous Benson Park Sculpture Garden. In 2008, he was again commissioned by the High Plains Arts Council to sculpt a small 12″ x 12″ bas relief for the 25th anniversary of Sculpture in the Park Show. The sculpture, “The Music of Spring,” is installed in Benson Park as part of the permanent city of Loveland art collection
Despite serious attempts to attend various academic art schools, those intentions never seemed to be a realistic option. In time, art schools no longer seemed necessary, as Sharles had become a successful, self-taught artist/sculptor, learning skills the hard way, by observation, and trial and error.
He is a self-taught sculptor and oil painter, having drawn in pastels from an early age. His love of color is evident in his patinas and still lifes of flowers, fruit, parrots, and small wildlife. His paintings and sculptures share similar themes. Sharles inherited his grandmother’s love of flowers, continually creating beautiful art for the sake of beauty. In addition to sculpting & painting, Sharles is a product designer of pillow, stationary, household items, coffee mugs and a digital artist, nature photographer, in general a computer geek.
JK Designs, Inc.
JK Designs, Inc. serves as the design team for the National Sculptors' Guild. Owned and operated by the father/daughter team of John & Alyson Kinkade, we have placed over 550 significant public art statements since 1992. Shop online or contact us to commission something unique for your space.