February 22, 2000
by Lee Edwards
I stood in the center of the atrium at Government Plaza wondering if Surat must have seen the world in the same soft-toned lights during the later part of his life when he suffered with cataracts, as Charles Billick’s painting “City of Mobile” was about to be unveiled. Even though the gathering there was small in comparison to the towering walls of glass-in office space surrounding me and the exhibit of prints from his other works seemed to be lost in the midst of the vast foyer hosting the event, the quiet structure evoked from the audience enshrouding responses which were warm and inviting.
I found myself lost in a delight with his studies of many different cityscapes which were on display. I saw how in each instance he enveloped a totality of impressions that would have normally lingered in the myriad of memory most of us have had and chalked up to as being an intangible. If anyone else had rendered those same expressions of our town, their interpretations might have been seen as having too much or as being too busy. But for him it was a stealth of sonata in overtones of surrealism balanced against a spirit to survive futuristic, ever-changing threats, that the Age of Aquarius pours over the formidable past which we all thought would never die when we struggled desperately to emerge from it and at the same time never wanting to let go of it, taking curio pieces of its old shell with us...he plays it well! Charles Billick captures this struggling emergence quietly, never missing a beat with a strong hint of the technical training he has in his trade. I suppose the best word I can think of to define the nature of his studies is cosmic, methodically in order.
In his painting of Mobile Mardi Gras Charles Billick blankets the city with a mystical ceiling. I thought to myself, that is the truth as I also have seen it. He veils his thought of its radiant activity erupting in a mist he created using subdued colors. But the reproduction prints of this painting lose all of his encompassing views that bring his insight to life.
Having seen this painting, it is difficult for me to imagine that Charles Billick was not born in Mobile. He comes to us from Australia. He was brought to Mobile by the United States Sports Academy. He has represented the Australian Olympic Team and the French Olympic Team as their official sports artist. He was presented a gold medal at the unveiling of his portrait of Mobile during Mardi Gras which he says is a moment he will never forget.
Mayor Mike Dow was pleased as punch to have been a host for the works of Charles Billick; he was glad to help everyone get a front row look of the work unveiled. The Mobile County Commissioners were also named as patrons for this event. Reproduction prints were sold at $100, each in a limited edition of 149.
You all missed out on participating in a lovely “night on the town.”
Afterwards, I sat by the window in the Admiral Benbow Restaurant counting the number of people who passed by carrying cartons which held one of Charles Billick’s prints, while I ate dinner with another artist Mobile enjoys from time to time, Fred Marchman. We watched them as they walked between the Mardi Gras barricades and the restaurant protected from the mist by its canopy covering the sidewalk. We also watched the cameraman from the television station across the street while he tested a spotlight for another Mardi Gras parade that would be coming to kick off the season 2000, but not nearly so quietly nor as dignitary as this one had been. I know Australia must be as grateful as Charles Billick is, for the honor we, Mobilians, have given him the Olympic gold medal for being a sports artist.
Artists have always had to hurdle the trying circumstances of competition. Artists are the necessary elements of progress; they must be able to communicate in an acceptable expression that is both entertaining and complimentary to the fickled nature of society and human nature. This in itself is an accomplishment that is rarely noticed or even compensated in the ways of financial gains. I also thank you, Mobile, for your courage to support God’s greatest gift to mankind....the creative genius, without whom we would not have the foresight to continue in an otherwise boring and monotonous existence.