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Artist of the Month - April 2004

Charlie Catron: Creating Art for Art’s Sake
by Carrie Switzer

Charlie Catron creates art for art’s sake. He’s not one for galleries or self-promotion; he doesn’t advertise or entertain. He creates sculptures from a variety of mediums, using ancient Greek mythology, the human form and nature as his subjects, and is happy to sell his work to those familiar with and desirous of his creations.
Charlie grew up in Moab and learned to use the local clays for pottery and ceramics from Delma Tangren, was trained as a painter and worked as a commercial artist in the aerospace industry in Southern California. He spent 10 years in the California University system “hunting for teachers who had what I wanted to learn,” he says, before settling into his work. He traveled later to Minnesota, and learned to carve with pipestone when a fire burned down the townhouse he shared with his wife, Linda. They went to high school together in Moab, and returned to their hometown in 1980, where they have lived since.

“I left here in 1951 in a dead run when I was 17 years old, and swore I’d never come back,” Charlie says. “By the time the fire burned out our home in Minneapolis, all we had left fit in the back of a pick-up truck, and we headed home.”

Ceramic Sabre Tooth Cat Skull

For 50 years Charlie said he has approached his art seriously, never being as concerned with “being” an artist, as he was “doing” art.

He carves and polishes pink alabaster from Escalante, white alabaster from Castle Valley, pipestone from Minnesota, and uses a unique technique he learned from the pioneer of cast concrete, Paoli Soleri. Charlie studied with Paoli in Arizona, and has since contracted a cast concrete work-in-progress for the sculpture garden planned for the new City Hall building site on Center Street.

Charlie’s day job is that of a printer, a trade he has pursued in one way or another since the Vietnam War, when he worked for the Navy Department and printed anti-war posters.

“They didn’t like it but I had 10 years tenure and they had to put up with me,” Charlie said. Before the Moab Ad-Vertiser building caught fire Charlie was Marge and Larry Fleener’s in-house graphic artists for 12 years, and continues to work the presses at the Ad-Vertiser/Moab Printing Place today. He owns a 3,000-pound letterset press salvaged from that fire and hopes to put it to use one day, and still prints his own Christmas cards every year.

“I’ve always been involved in printing and always had a desire to be a printer,” he said. One of Charlie’s ceramic pieces – a saber tooth cat skull – had such a likeness to the real thing an archeologist tried to buy it from its owner. He mixes ceramics and metals, does watercolors that look like photographs and makes amazingly detailed pipes from pipestone. He’s participated in one local Art Walk and had a show at the Dan O’Laurie Canyon Country Museum 20 years ago. The last gallery Charlie worked with was the One-Shot Gallery, long-since closed.


“I shun the company of other artists because a lot of people are serious about being an artist but they’re not serious about art,” Charlie says.

Charlie’s Sandbox Studio was named after Linda watched her husband carry silt back and forth in buckets to a pile he leveled out in his yard for use in the concrete casting process.

“You look like you’re playing in a sandbox,” she said to him.

“I said, ‘Yes, this is my sandbox studio’,” Charlie relates.

Charlie maintains that most of his art is “banned in Moab,” probably because of nudity and mythological depictions. What isn’t banned is in living rooms, backyards and offices around town and across the country, where by word of mouth or lucky coincidence an art lover becomes familiar with Charlie Catron’s work.

He is accessible, however, by calling the Sandbox Studio at 259-8743.

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