May-June 2013 – The On-Line Magazine of Art, Information & Entertainment – Volume 9, Number 3
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Charmaine Caire

Junior Year Abroad 20 x 24 copy res

Junior Year Abroad

Lights, Camera, Magic!

 The big little world

of Charmaine Caire

 

By Robert Hazzon

Guest Curator

     In a 2500-square-foot studio in midtown Philadelphia, photographer Charmaine Caire creates magical images using articles scavenged and collected from city streets and thrift shops. Shelves of boxes filled with objects from years of collecting are piled from floor to ceiling – the makings of a miniaturized MGM movie studio, or the largest flea market on the Eastern Seaboard.  She calls her studio the “Artfarm”.  I call it  “ArtFUN”.

Senso Unico

Senso Unico

 

Hundreds of dolls, toys, plastic accessories from aquariums, pieces of games, fake flowers, posters, to name only a few, are the elements that make up her colorful, playful and thought-provoking photographs. Charmaine’s favorite sources for these things include yard sales, flea markets and junk stores.  “Dolls, toys, all have a history.  These things speak to me and I listen.  It’s all very symbolic.  Those messages are an integral part of the development of each photograph,” she explains.  She also belongs to a group of artists called the “Dumpster Divers” who meet once a month and share and trade “stuff” they’ve found on the street, and other places.  Her studio, once called  the “Please Take Museum,” was a meeting place for the group; the public also was invited to participate and indulge. 

 

Pfizer

Pfizer

    In the middle of her studio, Charmaine has arranged one of her miniature sets with backdrop, props and figures that tell a particular story. She uses small flood lights and colored gels to create the dramatic effects that are so predominate in her work.  Working with a Mamiya 4×5 camera that still uses film, Charmaine says with some sadness,  “I see myself as one of the photographers of the old world. I feel great remorse that my way of working has become basically obsolete. I miss Polaroid cameras.  The only thing I use Photoshop for is removing dust particles from the image and slight color saturation.  I almost never crop my images.  I do most of my own printing.”

 

In My Room

In My Room

 

     It’s not hard to understand when she says, “Children really get my work.”  Her images have a campy, surrealistic quality; the kind of pictures ideal for children’s books.  They also seem reminiscent of still photos from a movie set.  Charmaine explains: “I like to tell a story, but I want it to feel unfinished.   I let the viewer fill in the ending.”  For adults, there’s a lot more in the message of her work.  With her intricate assemblage of props, Charmaine finds it the perfect venue for expressing her observations about the world we live in.  “Sometimes the work focuses on politics. Other times, I create images that propel people to face their fears.  I also enjoy eroticism.  I like being racy.”  In a recent series of self portraits depicting her many wonderful trips to Italy, her spirit is invigorated when she says:  “The woman in the gondola…THAT’S ME!”

Country & Western

Country & Western

  

   Charmaine has been working in this style for about 12 years and has shown her work in over thirty exhibitions; six of them One Woman shows.  At the beginning of October,   she took part in an art show at Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Garden on South Street in downtown Philadelphia. 

     More than anything else, Charmaine wants to work with children.  When she mentions that she will have them come to the “Artfarm”, I imagine them scrambling through her boxes and playing.  In a serious voice she responds, “Oh, no. We ‘re going to be discussing the issues of our rapidly changing world!”

Portrait of Charmaine

Charmaine Caire with portfolio of prints.

        Charmaine Caire can be reached at www.charmainecaire.com