Charles Dickson

Charles Dickson was born September 16, 1947 to Vera and Robert L. Dickson of Los Angeles and raised in the neighborhood of South Central. Today, Dickson muses over his own situation, which, even in a family with two parents, was almost matriarchal. "I was always around my mother and my aunt because I was so sickly...Then too, it seems the female form is a catalyst in my work, and I always had an understanding of women. In my studies of the female form, I found that African American women were the most overlooked, so I focused my attention there because that was my environment."

Dickson's family was supportive of his artistic ambitions both intellectually and financially. When Dickson was young and had to be taken frequently to a doctor for asthma, his mother would occasionally stop afterwards at Bullock’s or Broadway. Together they would look at fabrics, the patterns on sofas, flooring material and other products of designers. His mother would talk to him about color and various design problems. The atmosphere of the crowded stores had another effect beyond raising the boy's aesthetic sensitivities. "That was good socialization for me...I learned a lot about people," Dickson says with a smile of warm remembrance.

It was Dickson's interest in the aesthetic problems and concepts his mother discussed with him at an early age that fostered his desire to be an artist and eventually compelled him to make decisions about his life and craft.

The young Dickson studied Industrial Arts at John C. Fremont High School in South Central and after graduation settled on sculpture as his medium. Dickson works in wood and stone, but recently has produced increasing numbers of works in bronze.

Dickson is essentially a biomorphic sculptor, and thus he is more of a surrealist than a constructivist. He seems much influenced by the doctrine of "being true to the material;" that is, always trying to reveal the full potential of the material he is using in his sculptural forms. It is this goal which led Dickson to make holes through Ancestral Tree and to explore the effect of placing one form within another. Dickson also has a keen sense of sculptural metaphor. In Ancestral Tree, his metamorphic forms reveal marvelous and unsuspected likenesses between disparate things, but the juxtaposition has the result of revealing a truth, which, once recognized, seems inevitable. Even though the effect may lose its initial surprise, it does not lose its mystery. It seems right, natural, and reasonable, neither outlandish nor questionable.

Dickson has committed himself to a personal style which uses elements from classical art, as well as from the ancient cultures of Africa and Mexico. Most importantly, however, is the fact that his work is a reflection of the love and education he received from his family, colleagues, community, and cultural ethos. So, when viewing the piece Ancestral Tree, the spectators should feel "courted" in some way and realize that they are being asked to focus on the personality of the artist and the family that stood behind him as well.

by Leonard Simon

Charles Dickson is a Los Angeles-based artist who uses a variety of media to create three-dimensional artwork and sculpture. Dickson incorporates both his life experiences and urban environment to create pieces that speak to a diverse audience as well as express different perspectives of the African American experience.
Back to Gallery Index Ancestral Tree