Charles Turnell
Charles Turnell Example Charles Turnell Self Image

Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum’s inaugural Artist in Residence, Charles Turnell, debuted the first installation of his art that will be displayed at the Willow Gatehouse, near the Willow Gate of the Cemetery. We celebrated Charles Turnell’s historic residency with a reception at Norwood Hills Country Club on Friday, February 23, 2024. The business community, art community, and public were treated to a display of eleven pieces of Charle’s fine art, and the event was a resounding success.

The first installation of Charles’s art are three pieces titled “Hope”, “Love”, and “Pinocchio”. These pieces of fine art will be displayed in the Willow Gatehouse beginning on Friday, March 8, and we encourage the public to come to the Willow Gatehouse and appreciate Charles’s introspective fine art.

The Willow Gatehouse is the first building on the left as you pass through the main gate. Future announcements and dates for events featuring Charles’s art will be announced soon, and again, we are thrilled to have Charles as our 2024 Artist in Residence.

Words from Charles Turnell’s address at the reception at Norwood Hills Country Club on Friday, February 23.

“Tonight marks a significant milestone in my artistic journey. Many of you know me as a photographer, and that is where everything begins, but I will give you a little backstory. It is important to note that I was born and lived my formative years in Belize, Central America. My parents were early influences on my career. My mother was a very talented visual artist, and one of her drawings was displayed at the Bliss Institute in Belize City, Belize. My father liked photography, and he always had cameras. He gave me my first camera.

“As a young boy, I picked up the mail for my family from the local post office box, and I would be the first person to get my hands on the latest copy of National Geographic magazine. That introduced me to the world of photography. Page by page, I explored the hidden and seemingly inaccessible pockets of the world. I marveled at the intricate geometry of many different landscapes, the colorful exotic flora-fauna, the innovations of man, and the mystery of unique world cultures. That greatly influenced my appreciation for the world in its infinite, yet elusive beauty. Interest in the great cultures of the world has driven my passion for photography and art. Another great influence is my Jesuit education that really talks about seeing God in everything. I see beauty in everything and that has been a large influence on me. The world around us is how we decide to see and observe it. The art, architecture, places we live, etc.… I often say, ‘the camera has taught me how to see!’.  These are the core elements that are the first steps in the creation of my art. I observe the world around me and capture it.

“You will notice the aesthetic in my pieces of art have core elements that balance color schemes, senses of color, and composition. They are structured but deconstructed, they are abstract, and harmony of pattern and color keeps repeating itself. I have great interest in the Ottoman Empire because it has a great cultural legacy that embraced arts, science, and welcomed refugees from all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

“My artistic process begins with my camera. I take photos of flowers, plants, nature landscapes, and the world around me that I explore and document. The flowers represent various travels in Europe, North America, Central America, and South America are used as the ‘little pieces of glass’ that are assembled to create the final mosaic image. That is how I build my color palette. I then use software to begin the creation process.

“I will explore the concept of love and the connection from the material world to the spiritual world during my year-long residency. To me, Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum means a universal cycle of life, birth, maturity, death, and rebirth. Trees represent a cycle of spring, summer, fall, and winter. To me, it also leverages the harmony of patterns and color to create a spiritual calm. I am excited to have the public submit pictures of flowers and landscape at the Cemetery and Arboretum to be reviewed and possibly be selected to use in pieces of art I will create this year.

“My body of work aspires to illuminate a brighter world and an intricate reflection of humanity encapsulated in what I term the “substance of life”.  My hope is that my art encourages dialogue, fosters productive thinking, and rekindles human connections. As we collectively navigate our shared concerns, needs, and dreams, my hope is that we boldly venture into a future where we grow, flourish, and spread beauty everywhere.”