Charles Simonds: 1945-****...United States
"You can accept the idea of there being a race of ‘Little People,’
as you accept so many other fait accomplish of city life."
The artwork of Charles Simonds fits firmly into the art stream we are calling
Instillation, Environment, and Sight. His works are miniature environments that are installed
into an interior space and, at times, are designed for a sight specific location. He became best
known for his tiny ruins of the "Little People" that are extinct. The "Little People" are loosely based on Native American-like
societies that he invented for his works. Those that are familiar with the Daniel Quinn book “Ishmael,” might
call these people “leavers.” A former student made a parallel between the "Little People" and the “Indian
in the Cupboard” book from 1980 by Lynne Reid Banks. Anyway, these architectural and landscape works give a look of
real authentically produced dwellings. Tiny bricks are stacked and mortared (they are actually glued) and have a look of time
and decay, although newly created. There is even a hint of interior space within the work.
I suppose, like the “Indian in the Cupboard”, Simonds' artworks
capture the attention of many because it captures the attention of the child with in us all. There is a part of us all wants
to believe that our toys come to life, and magic is real, and "Little People" existed in the walls of city buildings.
Simonds, like most, began to work with clay in the fourth grade. At
New Lincoln School in New York City, he was inspired to take his love for modeling out of art class and a life long ambition.
"My brother and I were adept at making portraits in clay." This pastime was supported by his parents
through high school and he majored in art at the University of California at Berkeley and going on to Rutgers University.
Eventually he became a college art teacher in New Jersey where he noticed the deterioration of brick in some of the cities
older buildings in the 1971. Immediately, he began to experiment with clay and sand to get a look of Native American or African
dwellings made from the earth. He attached these little models to the dilapidated buildings and occasionally captured his
art in self produced movies.
Simonds’ work caught on and soon he was creating little dwellings for
various galleries and art collections. He considers himself a poor draftsman, and will only draw when he has an idea he cannot
begin right away. There are three types of architectural types: circular,
spiral, and line. All three are described in his 1975 book Three Peoples. The works are complete with miniature tools, ladders, and other neat little
details. The work is generally inside, mostly because it is unfired clay, and any water could cause it to disincarnate. The
work, however, does not have to last forever, in his opinion. Time will change the work and those changes are a pert of the
works history, and that is important. People live and build shelter. People die and the shelter disincarnates: both come from
and reenter the Earth. This is the way of the art of Simonds as well. He lives and makes the art. He will die and the art
will cease: both will be reclaimed by the Earth. Charles Simonds lives and works in New York until being absorbed back into