Charles Birnbaum

Art is a site of dialogue that is frequently contested, often resisted, but always trans-formative. People’s lived experience, preconceptions, and expectations influence their perception of a work of art, and in their responses, they become co-creators--participants not observers. Many artists want this as much as they (consciously or unconsciously) fear it.


My work always begins with a form that expresses a particular feeling or idea I have about “containment.” The intersection of containment and freedom is a critical challenge for me because I create each piece freehand (without the use of a throwing wheel or mold). Unconsciously I create what Willem de Kooning called "slippery glimpses"--“elusive bits of meaning that a work of art can yield if only for an instant before drawing us back into the realm of pure visual sensation.” It is these glimpses that reveal the tension between my desire for freedom and my need for control, my yearning for intimacy and my fear of engulfment. Shapes grow alongside one another and then shift and slide apart; viscous mergings separate into distinct autonomous forms; and seemingly closed spheres open into dark voids. Tendrils snake in, around, and through the shapes, which are covered in densely layered patterns and textures that invite touch.. Every piece is both assertive and yielding, aggressive and pliant. And, like me, each simultaneously conceals and reveals.