About 15 years ago, an undergraduate art major, portfolios in hand, meandered around the Grove on game day selling sketches of the courthouse and Lyceum — made while working the front desk at a residence hall —for $50 to drunk tailgaters.
Fast forward to now, and Southside Gallery is exhibiting 24 of Charlie Buckley’s newest pieces, which push the boundaries of architecture and landscape painting. The artist’s reception is from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Buckley manipulates photos he’s taken with the goal of recreating the most vivid mental image one can conjure when thinking about a certain location.
“It’s like people that wait at the Golden Gate Park for the perfect photo of the bridge with the fog — it happens like once a year, but that’s people’s mental image of what it looks like,” Buckley said. “But it’s very rare that everything lines up. There’s always fog and the bridge, but it’s a matter of coming together perfectly.”
With his piece “Sunset Through Trees I,” Buckley said he went on Photoshop, made 10 different layers, cut them out and changed the colors so it looked like fall and visually pushed a lot of stuff to the background so the landscape has a haze over it.
“It’s like ‘the greatest hits,’” Buckley joked. Although he didn’t actually see the exact landscape “Sunset Through Trees” occur in nature, he knows that there are moments when all the elements align and such a visually rich landscape would be real.
Having spent most of his life in Mississippi, Buckley has a connection to the state and said that when he paints other landscapes, such as mountains or desserts, it doesn’t feel as genuine.
“There’s a voice to the landscape, and it is part of you, your region and culture,” Buckley said. “If you don’t understand the space, you’re not going to get the image right.”
In addition to these idealized landscapes, Buckley’s Southside exhibit also features three pieces from a relatively newer series, “Stacked Houses,” in which different styles of houses, such as Victorian and Queen Anne, are piled
on top of others, such as duplexes.
“I tell people these are my ‘Mad Max in Mississippi.’ It’s like what would happen with Southern architecture if there was an apocalypse,” Buckley said. “It’s just these pieced together monstrosities.”
All of the houses in these paintings exist in real life. While living in Tupelo and traveling through different places, such as Cincinnati and Atlanta, Buckley photographed any house that caught his eye, and he accumulated a bank of house photos.
“I’m just, like, grabbing stuff and trying to fit it in,” Buckley said. “It’s like a puzzle.”
Originally, Buckley wanted to make the houses float in water, but he realized that wouldn’t work. He took the puzzle and reflective water concepts and ran with them, creating new works.
In these new works, “Delta I” and “Delta II,” Buckley said he took a soybean field tree line, mirrored it and flipped it upside down on the water, then finally added the image of the river delta flowing into the gulf underneath.
“I was just messing around one day and thought, ‘Oh, I could make these lakes’ and ‘I want to have this falling space beneath it,’” Buckley said. “I don’t really know what the heck these things are, but I like the way they look, and I’m not sure where they’re going.”
Buckley said he likes this idea of creating a false environment.
In addition to experimenting with space, Buckley explores different ways to add texture to a piece that cannot be achieved with a paintbrush.
Since Buckley always paints on wood, he began to carve into the surface with “Stacked Houses with Daisies” to add depth to the floral wallpaper background.
Buckley also uses stickers, silk screens, spray paint, razor blades and even forks to make unique marks on his work and obscure the image a bit.
“I would love to have 100 different mark-making tools in my toolbox other than the brush,” Buckley said.
With “Lakeside Trees at Sunset,” Buckley uses construction chalk to make subtle lines in the water that is reflecting the sky.
“My goal as a painter is for, from far away, it to look incredibly real — not like a photograph — but a very well-rendered image,” Buckley said. “And then I want to break it to down for the viewer as you approach it into an involved, textured surface.”