After receiving a fine arts degree in 1980, Charles Geiger decided “it is probably a good idea to have a Plan B.” He began a series of odd jobs during the day while painting at night—“dark, apocalyptic, and physical paintings,” Geiger says—and after accepting work as a research technician for the tempting increased pay, and discovered he enjoyed the field: “I had a facility for writing computer algorithms for research projects in physics,” Geiger explains. A second degree, this time in computer science, and a job with IBM, followed. It wasn’t until a 1996 relocation to a Poughkeepsie studio, previously belonging to painters C. K. Chatterton (1880—1973) and Lewis Rubenstein (1908—2003), that Geiger left IBM. It was time to return to art.
“It’s a myth that art and science are at odds,” says Geiger. “Inquiries and observations into the unknown are common to both disciplines. The artist, like the scientist, has to be willing to question reality and attempt to bring forth something new.”
Geiger’s current art is the antithesis of his earlier apocalyptic pieces. Mutual Assurance burgeons with life: leaves, logs, and feathered figures meet detailed microorganisms, cilia-covered paramecium complete with vacuoles, and seaweed ribbons tangibly slippery, in a color palette soothingly aegean.
“I spent a lot of time looking through a microscope at slides when I worked in research and always, as an artist, viewed these forms as residing in another subworld, a world that is simultaneously flat and infinitely dimensioned.”
Specific to Mutual Assurance, Geiger explains, “I used cooler sublimated tones on the surrounding leaf forms with the hotter colors in toward the center suggesting intensity and stress at a core. Two entities can be inseparable and inextricably tied together, yet at the same time, be attempting to rip apart from one another.”
Which leads to where Geiger currently stands. His reconciliation of the scientific and artistic has been well-received. Since 2011, his art has been featured in nearly 20 exhibitions. Showings have been local—the Dorsky at SUNY New Paltz, Barrett Art Center, Van Brunt Gallery, the Garrison, and Woodstock Artists Association and Museum—and international, with a 2009 showing at Platform SERAï in Frankfurt. “Life’s challenge is for us to find a graceful way to do what we most fundamentally enjoy doing and are good at. Contrary to a romantic myth, misery is actually exhausting.”
Mutual Assurance will be on display as part of the group exhibition “More or Less” at the Albany Airport Gallery
through January 6.