Friday, December 2, 2011

Contemporary African Artist: Charles Searles

Unfortunately, I missed the Waterloo Center for the Arts visit but am making up for lost time by doing a little research, analysis and comparison on a contemporary African artist, Charles Searles.

After reading his story of how he got where he is today, I was hooked, without even viewing his pieces of art. After studying at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and creating artwork influenced by African use of color, patterns, sculpture and dance, his daughter passed away. His loss inspired him to visit Africa and study in Ghana, Nigeria and Morocco. Searles' journey influenced his African inspired artwork to take a new direction of abstraction while maintaining his patterning and anthropomorphic dancing forms.

The piece above is an excellent example of a sculpture by Searles that shows a biomorphic form of a dancer to an African masquerade while it reminds me of forms seen as a substructure on a African mask that danced for a specific meaning.

This painting is also a good representation of Charles Searles. It incorporates his passion for bright colors, for dance and movement, elaborate patterns and African figures.

Charles Searles takes a view of 'traditional' African art and puts a modern, contemporary spin in it. By using the same traditional concepts of bright colors, masquerades, movement, patterns, and sculpture, he adds the updated element of abstraction. You can find more information and artwork by Charles Searles here: and


  1. Very interesting. I think you could develop your analysis of the works a bit--integrate form and meaning.

  2. Dear Cari,

    Thank you for introducing me to a new great artist Charles Searles.

    I was recently introduced to African Art by Ephrem Kouakou, a prominent contemporary African painter, who I befriended.

    I wanted to ask your advice regarding Ephrem's up coming exhibit.

    New Works by Ephrem Kouakou, “The African Picasso“ through March

    Born in Ivory Coast, West Africa, trained in France, and now residing in Baltimore, Ephrem Kouakou's powerful, vivid paintings are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Ephrem's blend of African and Western imagery is a rapturous dance of color and line. Inspired by his native culture, his bold folk art includes themes of fertility, brotherhood, the strength and power of women, and an understanding of sacrifice, reflection, and spirituality. We are proud to have a large collection of his new work.

    Please contact me at our Gallery.

    Thank you,

    David Dempster,
    Still Life Gallery
    8173 Main St.
    Ellicott City, MD 21043
    (410) 461-1616