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Charles R. Carter Bio

Even if you only met him once, Charles Carter is someone you would not forget.  Whether it was his gentle voice, a stunning piece of art, his trademark “Power” necklace, or the twinkle in his eyes, there was something you would remember. 

Charles Carter began his life in Los Angeles in 1934. He quickly learned the importance of family with a loving mother, father, stepfather and two sisters. Although interested in art at an early age, Charles didn’t seriously consider being an artist until after his tour in the army. Upon returning to the States from his station in Paris, and with encouragement from his stepfather, Harold, he enrolled in art classes in the local junior college and eventually completed his Associate’s Degree in Art (the first in his family to go to college). Raised in a working class African American family, Charles’ choice to be an artist, particularly in the late 1950’s was a bold choice. Charles’ commitment to his art, to his family and to following his truth became a hallmark to his character. As his family and influences grew, from Los Angeles to Pasadena to Montreal, a unique and unwavering voice emerged.



Charles’ diverse interests and abilities translated through his paintings, drawings, carvings, jewelry and music. In addition to art, nature, as a representation of God, was very important to him and a constant element in his work. Over his forty-plus year career, Charles developed a number of distinct periods of works and mediums, from: pointillism, to acrylics, to pastels and oil and watercolor creations as well as jewelry making and woodcarving. His pieces ranged from abstract to traditional to portraits. A brief look at his work easily distinguishes between his various styles and themes. His subjects, frequently animals and people in their traditional and ancestral dress, and his jewelry, often featuring natural materials such as animal bones, copper and turquoise, reflected his spiritual teachings, his perspective and his philosophy. To use his own words, here is a quote from The Biographical and Philosophical Sketch, 



Charles soon began to have spiritual experiences that forever changed his life and caused his creativity to flourish. In 1959, after discovering Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), Charles's spiritual life became a priority and he spent two years as an SRF renunciant. He cherished this experience as one of the most significant times of his life, but renunciation was not his path. Charles became a husband and father, as well as an artist and a teacher. Although art and family became priorities, he never swayed from his spiritual path..

Charles shared his love of art, nature and spirituality with his students and fellow artists at various schools and organizations, such as the Jackie Robinson Community Center, the renowned Pasadena Art Center and the Charles White Arts Festival. He worked as an art teacher, as an Artist Model and he participated in and helped to organize numerous community art events, including the Salute to Black Artists. He became a mentor to many in both traditional and non-traditional ways. With his thick beard, large hats and colorful dress, Charles was well known throughout Altadena and Pasadena, California. For his art and his work in the local artist community, he was recognized with multiple honors, including numerous Congressional awards.


Mountain Man

In his early fifties, Charles moved into a teepee at the Zorthian ranch in Altadena, and years later, he built himself a compound, including a cabin and an art studio. Living simply among the beauty and wildlife in the San Gabriel Mountains was one of his biggest pleasures, but his late wife Therese, joining him in that life was an even more precious gift. He lived on the ranch until he was 73, just a few months before his passing. His unique and rustic lifestyle garnered him the attention of journalists and documentarians.



In the last years of his life, Charles adopted a new title as a professional musician. After informally performing with friends at his exhibitions and impromptu jam sessions, he became a member of the group Three Peace Ensemble, which performed at various venues throughout Southern California. Throughout his life, Charles always found music a spiritually and fulfilling creative channel and he was quite delighted and honored to become a professional performer.


Inspiration is what Charles meant to so many that knew him.  Beautiful art notwithstanding, it is the way that he lived his life; embracing the essence of who he was, that is inspiring. He exemplified creativity and spirituality in both his work and his daily life, and he found simple pleasures in everyday things: a sunrise, a good conversation with a friend, or a thrift store treasure. The choices he made in life were without reservation and served his spirit well. Although Charles had numerous journeys, won several awards, and made many accomplishments throughout his career, it is his unique perspective, his love of life and his faith in God that has inspired so many of us. Well loved and respected by a large community of family, artists, students and friends, he gave everyone he met a gift in his work and in his friendship. 

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