After years of exploring places around the globe as a flight attendant, Charlie Ciali traded in his wings for a more earthy exploration: ceramics.
He was a ceramicist who produced collectable pieces before becoming a Midwest gallery owner. Upon his arrival in the desert, Ciali reinvented himself as an abstract portraiture painter before becoming a mixed-media artist and, later, a producer of fine-art prints and paintings.
The artist goes beyond exploring the intersection and integration of painting and printmaking—art forms frequently considered distinct and different. Ciali also incorporates his expertise as a ceramicist to create a fusion of creative techniques and aesthetics. Specifically, he exploits the unique contributions of each medium to offer the viewer a heightened sense of dimensionality, varied textures and a layering of colors.
“Right now, I find myself focusing on creating monotype prints, as well as encaustic (i.e. wax-based) paintings,” he said.
Ciali, at times, also incorporates resins into his encaustics and monotypes. Resins are essentially a type of epoxy that, when buffed to a high shine or finish, reflect and refract light, producing a greater sense of depth.
“Euclid,” an encaustic on board (right), typifies the artist’s fusion of monotype printmaking, encaustic painting and ceramics. Depending upon the lighting and the angle from which it is viewed, “Euclid” offers subtle changes in color and shading. To achieve this, Ciali applies encaustic paints in shades of highly saturated yellows, oranges and blues. By painting the bottom sections of the piece in rich blues, he adds a sense of height. The encaustics contribute an additional layer of textural depth to the already present dimensionality.
“Water,” a monotype with resin on board (below), is a wide piece; the eye constantly moves from one end of the print to the other. As with many of Ciali’s monoprints, there is a strong figurative element. Here, he presents the profile of a female head in shades of yellow, gold and white. The head seems to float in front of a red backdrop. As the viewer’s eyes follow along the width of the monotype, the imagery becomes increasingly less representational—in other words, it is more suggested than defined. At the far right, opposite the profile, is an intriguing, amorphous, cloud-like shape in bright whites, accentuated by blue-green lines and light gray highlights. Between the left and right borders are suggestive images of paper with Asian-style lettering, Sumi-like painting brushes and India-inspired architectural forms; they float in the background. By applying the resin, the artist amplifies the sense of depth, making the entire composition seem dreamlike.
This past spring, Ciali was elected president of the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Artists Council. He previously served as the Artists Council’s executive vice president for fundraising, and was previously on the city’s commissions for public arts and parks and recreation.
“Currently, about 60 percent of my time is involved with arts education.” Ciali said, “In conjunction with the Palm Springs Unified School District, I created programs to teach printmaking to students from grade 3 to 12.” For several years, he has mentored students at the Arts Institute of Palm Springs High School.
Ciali maintains a fully equipped studio where he teaches printmaking and encaustic methods nearly year-round. He is often invited to other arts venues around the country to teach workshops.
“The desire to learn and express one’s creative self is more important than chronological age,” Ciali said. “In fact, I frequently find myself learning from my adult students who are not academically trained artists.”
Locally, the artist’s work is on display at Archangel Gallery, located at 1103 N. Palm Canyon Drive (760-320-4795; archangelartcollective.com/a). For more information on the artist, visit www.charlieciali.com.