Making Art that celebrates Black History and Culture


Artist Statement

Artist Charlie Newton states that:My practice is "Southern African American Spiritual Painting"  with roots in quilt making (inspired by my grandmother, Beulah Taylor), Spirituality (my mother and father John and Sarah Newton; My father sang in a gospel group and my mother saw ghosts) and African Shamanism (the power image namely the Fetish).  I am able to bring those things together via my unique American experience (I'm a Black preacher, apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher but nonreligious) and share with all generations.

I am making paintings, sculpture and installations that psychologically deconstruct the Diaspora for me producing heroic, healing empowering imagery of the Black experience that is colorful and filled with movement and positive energy. The support is manipulated, sculpted, draped and may consist of many colors, heavy impasto, multiple and overlapping images and sometimes found and created objects organized in such a way as to imply time, ritual and spirituality. Color and brush stroke create passages throughout the surface and composition to lead the eye around and through the painting establishing a visual dialogue with the viewer about history, culture and spirituality.

Line and edge achieve the same in the sculpture. In many of the works relief and flat imagery co-exist blurring the edge between sculpture and painting. Often psychological content is established via forms of color, geometric shapes or designs that I name: African Chips (these chips are condensed archetypes that are historical, sometimes personal but always universal). They depict culture and are visual psychological pressure points used to pause the eye in order facilitate personal revelations.

The figure, be it human or not, creates an open dialogue about faith, spirituality and emotion. The heroic Black body is elevated, enlarged, glorified and celebrated to counteract the psycho degenerated attack experienced by people of color in this country for the past four hundred years.

That being said, my work investigates a history that has largely been lost or distorted due to slavery and western cultural norms robbing African Americans of a sense of history, continuity and family. I believe that my DNA preserves a type of cultural history originating long before slavery indeed at the dawn of human history that may be gleaned for imagery and expression recovering culture through memories embedded in the psychology and physiology of the human soul and black body.

I believe that my talent is a gift from God and should be used through the power of love.  I am not denying my African roots but embracing them particularly the energy and soul force inherited from my ancestors including Dr. Martin Luther king Jr., Rev. A. M. Sylar (my first pastor at the age of five), Shamans and the Fetish.

Spirituality under-girds meaning and deepens content through the use of a maelstrom of vibrant color and a complexity of light.  The paint is applied with impasto viscosity to activate the surface, enhancing emotional and psychological content. Canvas is sometimes draped and tied or hung expressing the struggle and tensions  of being Black in a racist society. 

Many of the paintings are prophetic visions that I believe come directly from God.  I try to paint what God has shown me.  Line often gives way to edge making references to prayers, chants, tongues and music to illustrate  my personal vision.

I want to make art that is meaningful and empowering; that blesses and encourages people and has more than surface value but intellectually recalls African approaches to image making and at the same time embrace western ideas about art celebrating Black culture.  Each painting is a prayer and prophecy meant to glorify God.



Black artist, Charlie Newton began drawing at the age of five years old. Raised in the tough College Hill Courts housing projects in Chattanooga Tennessee at the age of five Charlie's mother Sarah went grocery shopping leaving Charlie and his brother, John who was a year older, with "Brother", a teenager who lived in the apartment above them.  When the two boys got upstairs the older boy proceeded to show them drawings of superman and batman that he had completed with colored pencils.  The sight of the brightly colored drawings captured Charlie's attention in a dramatic way.  "I saw the light of God coming through the window when I saw drawings for the fist time in my life. From then on I was hooked" Charlie exclaims. From that time until the present Charlie Newton has been drawing and painting.  He was in the Art club at his high school (Riverside High) and entered undergraduate college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to pursue art as a career graduating with a BA in art in 1975.

Newton received his MFA from Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University in their consortium program in 1987.  He also studied with the University of Georgia's Studies Abroad Program in Cortona Italy.  Since 1986 Newton has exhibited in London, Italy, New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, Richmond Virginia, and numerous galleries in the South East including The Red Clay Survey, Huntsville Museum and Boundless Expressions, H. Lee Moffit Center, Tampa, Florida.  His work is represented in private and public collections in the US and abroad including The Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN, The College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ, Sun Trust Bank, Chattanooga, TN, Wallace H. Kuralt Center, Charlotte, NC and The Chattanooga African American Museum, Chattanooga, TN.  In 2012 Mr. Newton and his wife, painter Iantha Newton came full circle back to College Hill Courts projects founding SPLASH a free art school for low income urban at-risk youth.  Mr. Newton maintains his art studio where he paints full time in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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+1 (423) 320 6738

1200 Grove Street

Chattanooga, TN 37406

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