By: Gail Obenreder
“My work has allowed me to begin a journey of self-discovery to unearth bits and pieces of my true self and to grow a stronger appreciation for my experiences and my creative voice.”
The unique interdisciplinary mixed media fiber-and-painted works of Charlese Phillips evolved on an unexpected pathway. It was during the pandemic that the artist – who had formerly been working primarily in photography, calligraphy, and crafting – developed “a deep interest in fibers and fiber arts.” Phillips began to work in macrame, exploring its knots and techniques as a way to pass the time, find peace during uncertainty, and assess her artistic goals.
But through her exploration of macrame, Phillips fell in love the process of weaving, and searching for and creating new fibers led to her Fellowship-winning work. The idea of combining painting with her new-found focus on textiles was a revelation, and she set about “using the various creative skills obtained through my art education and other self-taught techniques” to develop her striking portraits of those who have inspired her. She also learned how to spin her own yarn, seeing “the endless possibilities I could have with color and texture.”
Phillips grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her mother and an older brother, attending Salisbury University there and earning her fine arts degree in ceramics. Now living in Delaware for the past twelve years, she recently received her Masters in Education from Wilmington University. Phillips is currently a high school photography teacher and would like to experiment with incorporating that discipline into her work.
She draws inspiration from “creatives from all backgrounds and mediums,” including photography, film, music, and [of course] fine arts. Phillips seeks to see herself and her artistic journey in the work of a myriad of inspiring artists – an eclectic group that includes Michaela Cole, Issa Rae, Kehinde Wiley, Viola Davis, Adele, Amy Sherald, and Ava DuVernay.
Her major challenges are in “selecting subjects, choosing color palettes, and creating a supportive structure for each piece.” Often spending days observing work in progress to arrive at a creative decision, Phillips must also create the appropraite framework to hold each of these unique pieces. Combining mediums makes this construction process especially important, and she must “be sure the work is as structurally sound as possible.”
Though the work is intricate and painstaking, Phillips feels pride in actualizing her visions. “As a person who has had struggles with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, I am thankful to have found an art form that gives me the freedom, challenge, and joy to grow as an artist and individual.”
Enormously thankful for the support of her family and friends, Phillips plans to use the award to expand her current practice and obtain new tools. The Division’s acknowledgement of her work as an Emerging Artist Fellow “means to me that ‘I can’ – that I can make art that is meaningful . . . that when I take a chance it can prove a great reward . . . [and] that I can reach my goals.”Fellowship Home