Charles Linder

On four decades of Hustle

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Charles Linder came west on a motorcycle in the late 80s – landing first in Los Angeles. A renegade and a romantic, he moved to San Francisco as a young gun, carving out classic art spaces in the Mission district – namely Natoma Gallery, Refusalon, and Lincart
His arts practice includes what he refers to as lifestyle art, hunting, taxidermy, cooking, and shooting things up in nature, then dipping them in glossy liquid – how quintessentially American. Here’s our interview and photo study with Charlie.


Why do you think you became an artist?

My dad was a business man and antique dealer and my mom was an artist. They met at Carnegie Tech as art students. As far as I can tell, I’m the only great piece of art they ever produced together. Sounds narcisstic, I know but everything else they made art-wise – including our family – was wreckage, landfill. My life is a reflection of their brief interest in each other and my being an artist is a biological result of their carnal relations, perhaps little else. This is literally the only thing I know how to do…the only thing I am great at. I became an artist because the sun rises and sets.


Were you ever interested in other forms besides installations, paintings, glass sculptures, drawings, book art, found art, folk art, literature, photography? Lol. Seriously, is there any art that doesn’t appeal to CKL?

I still want to be a cowboy more than anything : my artwork amounts to an urban adventurer’s fantasies about rural life and everything I do points up that longing to return to the countryside.  I think every day about fleeing the city ( again ) to take up residence in the country… and I find that the city’s charms are numbered while the allure of the wilderness is unlimited and drives who I really am. My friends jokingly say theyd give me a month if I moved to the ranch… but they don’t really know me.

I’ve kind of perfected the city mouse / country mouse dichotomy. Honestly, I don’t know if I could give one up for the other. Heading out pig hunting tomorrow for two days in Hollister !




What impact, if any, do you hope your work makes on audiences?  

I have absolutely no concern for audiences or communicating literal messages and I readily admit to my form being a series of encantos which I have made for my own survival, pleasure and enlightenment. That being said, nothing thrills me more than when someone wants to buy my work or write about it. I am humbled and also empowered when I sell a work : I take it as an acknowledgement that my form is not, in fact, simply self-involved eye candy which reflects my spirit but that the pieces may actually resonate with others who connect to my ethos and to the touchstones that I return to again and again in my work.


What subjects most draw your interest? 

Wreckage, decay, abandoned buildings, crashed cars, naked ladies, weeds that grow out of cracks in the concrete…things like that.




Does solitude impact your art/poetry? 

One can only make great art alone…unless you are a corporation like banksy that produces collaborative political decoration for sale anonymously. To be a great artist you must be comfortable being alone – though not lonely; loneliness is a spiritual affliction that is easily cured by genuinely caring for other people in you life. Whenever I get engrossed in sadness I try to remember to turn my perspective around and focus my energy on other peole rather than myself. I get a lot out of giving …out of putting myself in other peoples positions. Sometimes that helps me contextualize my own issues and I find that it almost always pulls me out of a nose dive. The challenge is to translate that isolated emotional currency of being a seer…a looker… into a kind of sought-after cultural capital that deeply resonates within other people viscerally…visually…,and ideally, also within the market place.




Does art matter? Does poetry matter?  

Without art and poetry everything else is just shit in between waiting to see another great painting or read a life-changing poem. My life hinges upon the veiled promise that I will continue to find these sources of enlightenment, visually, in art objects and spiritually, through reading great poems.


What does ‘lifestyle as art mean? 

The sign of a true maverick artist is when you meet one you quickly see that they are not only the producer of the work but they are also the only client, critic and dealer for the work who actually believes in and understands the message and the impact. They are indeed a culture of one. When they die it’s the end of an era…and its usually only then that they begin to be more widely understood and also, finally become viable as a market commodity. Meanwhile, in the eyes of their contemporaries they spent their entire lives as pariahs, outsiders, lunatics; They sacrificed everything else in their life over the blind pursuit of joy, enlightenment and the delicacy of the ephemeral.