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Deaf Artist: Charles Bourke Wildbank

By Rachel Roberts

Charles Bourke Wildbank is a painter who began his interest in art at a very young age by sketching pictures of the things that he wanted or needed so that his parents could understand him. Wildbank, who was born deaf, was awarded a fellowship at Yale University in 1969, has a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute, 1970, and an M.A. in Education from Columbia University, 1972. He was a teacher for the deaf until 1978 when decided to go to Europe were upon his return started his professional career by doing portraits of David Hockney and Luciano Pavarotti. Wildbank describes his painting style as photorealism and visionary and hopes to take his audience to a place that allows them become more aware of their own inner self (Wildbank, 2005).

Wildbank has a very colorful and precise style of paintings and captures flowers, sea shells, still life, portraits, and visionary scenes in a beautiful manor. My favorite of the floral paintings is one called "Longwood Gardens" and is a picture of lily pads floating on water. I really like the painting because the water is rippling and mirroring the clouds in the sky. It looks like glass with the green pads on it and red flowers spotted around. This picture makes me feel as if I am sitting on the bank of that lake watching the clouds go by in the water.

The still life paintings are amazing and it is hard for me to choose a favorite but I would have to say "Cherries" and "Entremezzo for Two" really caught my eye. In the painting of cherries you can see the light shining off the bright red and water droplets on the cherries like they have just been rinsed clean. They look so vivid and real that you could almost reach through this world into the next and pick one to see what they taste like. In "Entremezzo for Two" I get the feeling that a very fancy tea party is taking place for some special people and I am one of them. The picture depicts a shinny silver tea set with beautiful flowers and chocolate on the tray. The flowers and sweets are reflected in the tea pot and sugar bowl to give a collage of color and sliver and sensation. The style is so correct and precise that again I feel that I am a part of the scene.

The painting that drew me to this artist is called "The Wave" done in acrylic on linen. This is a picture full of blues, greens, purple and white that gives such a motion it makes you wonder were this wave is traveling. The detail and blending of colors is so amazing and you can almost see the force driving this body of water to its destination where ever that may be. I want this wave to sweep through my walls and take me with it on its journey.

I think this artist has accomplished his goal of taking his audience to new levels of themselves and awareness, and I do not think that any amount of audible words or sounds could begin to touch on the feelings and emotions created from these works of art. I have never seen these paintings up close in a gallery but would not hesitate if the opportunity presented itself. If I am moved this much just sitting on my couch I can only imagine what standing in a room full of this art would feel like. All of these painting and many more are available to view at Wildbank's website sited below.

Wildbank, Charles. (2006, Jan.29). 

Eisenhauser, Sven. Retrieved 1 May 2007


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