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Chuck E. Bloom
A way of seeing
by Kathy Anderson

rowing up in the small town of Bloomdale, Ohio, Chuck E. Bloom dreamed of living in a tall building where he could look out his window and gaze upon the lights of a city. His fantasy came true in 2002 when he moved to Portland's Ione Plaza apartments a far cry from his grandma's farm with a two-seater outhouse, falling-down barn and pump house where they really did get their water from a well.

Real reality
As a storyteller of sorts, Chuck Bloom builds the stage and supplies the imagery and symbolism, offering the viewer a glimpse into another world.

"It's a realm in which dreams and possibilities and a chance for pure imagination are presented for you to do with them as you wish," he said.

"Einstein's Quandary," acrylic, 8" x 10"

There are no inhabitants visible in Chuck's work because, for him, the notion of someone else being present in his landscapes creates a barrier that would make it less accessible both visually and mentally. The viewer becomes the explorer.

"There is a tremendous learning experience that can happen when your worldview is challenged and you finally recognize that the things that can't and never happen, often do," he said.

"This is why I consider myself a Surrealist; a person's individual reality with all of his or her life experiences is rarely the same as another person's reality, thus, you are presented with the unanswerable question of whose reality is more real. Some people's dreams are more real than the life they live, so now what are we suppose to believe?"

The size of Chuck's artwork varies from 1" x 2" canvases to a hexagon measuring 30 inches on each side to murals filling entire walls.

"I make my small paintings because they are intimate and personal to each person that views them," he said. "My work is all incredibly detailed and each takes me large amounts of time and thought to complete – at least to the point where I consider them finished enough."

Sultan's Café mural

Mural mural on the wall
Chuck has done several murals, but knows of only one that survives in its entirety – his most recent, at Portland's Sultan Café on Northwest 17th and Raleigh.

"The mural on the back wall is about five by eight feet and it's a mostly realistic rendering of the Dome of the Rock surrounded by the city of Jerusalem with the wall of Jerusalem in the foreground," he said. "In the rest of the café I painted faux marble pillars and Arabic motif patterns and writings on the wall space above the windows."

Chuck's other Portland mural, on the walls of the defunct Broadway Coffee Trader on Northeast Broadway, has been painted over.

Broadway coffeehouse mural

"One wall had the Birth of Venus, another had the Creation of Man, another wall was Good sewing the firmament complete with cherubs galore," he said. "Now the walls are all yellow and covered with shelves of alpaca clothing.

"Had I known it was to be destroyed I would've found a way to remove it in portions and save it."

Chuck also did several murals in Ohio: a nightclub and a coffee shop, along with numerous tabletops for other coffee shops.

"My most impressive mural was for Border's Books and Music in Fairlawn, Ohio," he said. "A section of it still survives in someone's home."

Chain reaction
For Chuck, inspiration lies in wait everywhere; it's a matter of being aware of it.

"Remnants of Dreams," acrylic, 4" x 4"

"I'm inspired by or influenced by several hundred things a day," he said, "but as an artist it's more about responding to the things that inspire and influence me.

"I can draw inspiration from a rock, a fallen tree, a screaming child or a hurricane. You can't afford to have blind spots when you're an artist."

It's not just the images or experiences that inspire Chuck, it's also the perceptions he has of them and the observations he makes of other people's perceptions, as well as the memories and vague references of things he encounters in dreams.

"These things all formulate a chain reaction of sorts where all things collide. The memories and false memories and fragments of the past mixed with my encounters from an hour ago and the dreams from the night before," he said. "I think there must be some way to make this chaos more approachable and my canvases are the catalyst for doing so."

"Double Half Decaf Soy Ice Blended Fish Latte With Extra Foam," acrylic, 3" x 3"

Chuck has a long list of favorite artists, all of whom inspire him or influence his work in some way.

"I love the Surrealists, nearly all of them," he said. "I've done an incredible amount of research and have read as many as a hundred books, articles or essays over the past couple of years on Surrealism and I can't think of a more appropriate way of expressing myself artistically.

"Historically, Surrealism has been considered a political/social movement, but it far exceeds that definition. Surrealism was a lifestyle, a philosophy of living, a way of seeing and a belief system which is far from over."

Important to Chuck is Andre Breton's definition:

Surrealism, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which we propose to express – verbally, in writing, or in any other manner – the real process of thought. The dictation of thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason and outside any aesthetic or moral concerns.

Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of the dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to destroy definitively all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principle problems of life.

"Wanderer Series 6," mixed media on paper

Outer limits
Chuck's favorite artists include, but are not limited to: Yves Tanguy, Meret Oppenheim, Dorothea Tanning, Max Ernst, Victor Brauner, Kay Sage and George de Chirico. He also admires Dali, Van Gogh and Duchamp, and his favorite Surrealist writers are Mallarmeé, the Comte de Lautreamont (Cantos of Maldoror), Federico Garcia de Lorca and Rimbaud.

Next month Chuck's art will be on display in Portland at Blend Coffeehouse, 2327 East Burnside. In December he's participating in a miniature art show at Portland's Backspace Gallery, 115 NW Fifth Avenue.

His studio is in the new ActivSpace building at Northwest 17th and Raleigh (behind the Sultan Café) and is open any time he's there.

"Please come and visit," he said, "I love to talk."

Prominently displayed in Chuck's studio is a quote from Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland."

"There is no use trying," said Alice," one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't much practice," said the queen.

"When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Chuck believes it's a good way to approach each day.

Family portrait
Art was a big part of Chuck's childhood. He did it all, from drawing, painting and coloring to Playdoh, Spirograph, Etch-A-Sketch and Legos.

"By far my favorite toy was my Legos. I loved my Legos and could pass away an entire day playing with them. I still have Legos in my studio."

"Somehow It All Works Out," pen and ink, 5" x 7"

Chuck's parents and brother are all creative in their own way. His father has a green thumb and his brother is mechanically inclined. Chuck calls his mom an artist, although she doesn't consider herself one.

"Mom did chalk drawings all over the bathroom walls when I was very young and was always drawing pictures as favors for people," he said. "She drew an amazing portrait in pencil of me and my brother.

"I also remember a large chalk mural of the small church we went to by my grandma's house, and there is still a huge mural of a cowboy riding a horse and the silhouette of a tree on the living-room wall hidden under the paneling."

In high school, Chuck took every art class offered and was chosen Outstanding Art Student each year. He was president of the art club and his summers were spent attending art classes at Bowling Green State University.

He received an art scholarship to Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where he won the Mary-Evelyn Cook Weber Prize for Outstanding Artistic Achievement his sophomore year, as well as the Dean's Purchase Award his sophomore through senior years.

Chuck graduated Mount Union with bachelors degrees in art and psychology, then attended Kent State University to pursue his M.F.A. and teach undergraduate classes.

"I also taught art in Maui for the Lahaina Arts Society and the Boys and Girls Club. In 2002 I received the Scottie Flam Award for Excellence in Art Education and Outstanding Community Service in Maui," he said. "I'd love to teach again someday."

Learning to crawl
The simple answer to why Chuck creates art is because he must. It's been quite the journey to get to this point and to see that this is what he is.

"Don't Give Up," acrylic, 3" x 5"

"I am an artist and I create; this is my job, this is my purpose and my existence," he said. "I have given up my artwork many times in the past for real jobs that offered things I didn't think this could ever deliver. I neglected the only thing that was ever a real constant in my life only to come crawling back in despair to find out over and over again that when I give up my art I give up myself.

"I have learned from my mistakes and now allow art to take control of my life, as it should."

Chuck didn't set out with any specific goals regarding his art, but he does have a vision he works toward: being seriously accepted in the art community and recognized as an important entity in the world of art.

"Of course, I have daydreams of flying off to Europe to be part of shows and museum collections and be the ripple of excitement that travels though crowds of big collectors," he said.

"Will I be famous? I hope so. Will I earn the income I need or want from my artwork? I am pretty sure. Will the books of art history talk of the work of Chuck E. Bloom? That is yet to be told."

E-mail Chuck at cebloomstudio@yahoo.com and visit his Web site. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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