Charles: The Newfound Artist
In his CHOISS apartment, Charles has found ways to express himself through painting, sculpture, and jewelry. His art is filled with cherry blossoms, blue skies, and tiny mirrors, conveying a bright happiness that stands in contrast to a past spent on the streets. Now living in Long Beach, he was a runaway teen who found himself homeless in Hollywood at 15.
At 18, Charles became a born-again Christian. He thought God could provide the comfort he had been seeking. He went back to school, served as a missionary in Mexico, and worked in one of the homeless shelters in which he used to live. But religion came with contradictions. Charles, who is gay, was haunted by teachings against homosexuality, and he could not stop thinking about hell. His relationship with God has continued to be a journey. Charles believes that God, a concept he defines as bigger than a church, loves him and accepts that he is gay.
He found his artistic side in the face of serious illness. “I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994 and I thought I was going to die,” he says. “I still do sometimes.”
But art has helped him cope, and it gives his turbulent inner life a voice. “I want to paint beautiful monsters,” he says. “I can’t quite figure it out yet, but it has something to do with being beautiful on the inside when your outside life is such a mess.”
When he feels well enough, Charles volunteers as an art instructor at a local senior center. “But don’t call me a teacher,” he says. “The students are really good. I learn from them.” Inspired by his students and others, Charles works on his art and takes care of his health.