If you never had the good fortune to meet Charly Jupiter Hamilton, you will still have a chance to know him by his work. In the image above, you see him in front of his renowned “Wonder Wall” mural, occupying the side of a building in Charleston, West Virginia. It is one of his many works of public art—paintings, sculpture, prints, and other creations.
And if you watch the 51-second clip below, you will see Charly in the way I will remember him: reading a passage from Shakespeare, while standing before his mural, and talking buoyantly about what the future might bring.
This scene is the closing segment of our HBO movie Our Towns. It caught Deb’s and my attention as it was unfolding in real time, during the filming by Steve Ascher and Jeanne Jordan of West City Films. It had great emotional power for us when we first saw its placement in the film.
And now we watch it with the sad knowledge that Charly Hamilton has died, but with consolation that his example and influence will live on.
The details about Charly are below. I mainly hope to encourage you to watch this clip, look at Charly’s art and listen to the vitality in his voice, and reflect on the power of one person and his imagination. (Clip courtesy of Steve Ascher and HBO.)
More about Charly Jupiter Hamilton, 1948-2021. Charly Hamilton, an artist who had become one of the best-known creative figures in his region and far beyond, died this week in Charleston, at age 73. He had served as a Navy gunner’s mate during the Vietnam war, and in recent years had been suffering from the aftereffects of Agent Orange exposure.
An obituary for him, by Bill Lynch in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, is here. This summer, in awareness that he was seriously ill, the city of Charleston renamed a street Charly Hamilton Way. You can read Ben Speggen’s article about that event here. I did a post discussing Charly several months ago.
On news of his death, the city of Charleston issued this statement:
We are so sad to hear that Charly Jupiter Hamilton, nationally and internationally known artist, passed away earlier today. The void we are feeling from this loss is indescribable. Through his works, including captivating acrylic canvases, hand-built sculptures, carved and painted wood wall reliefs, and self-pulled block prints, Charly has made his mark on the art scene.
Charly had a style all his own. His pieces were instantly identifiable and brightened any area they were in. His work was larger than life – just like he was.
Charly painted the world as he saw it, full of enthusiasm, child-like mischief and big, big vision. He brought vibrance to our City through his work.
We will help carry on his vision into the future and will do so with pride knowing that Charly paved the way for so many.