Heroes and Heroines


The Lyric Song paintings evolved into the Heroes and Heroines series of the early 1980s, with the lozenge shapes themselves continuing to reappear for several more years. 

Heroes and Heroines, Artists and More..., 1982-83, acrylic on canvas, 96" x 77"

Distilling the images that inspired the initial concepts, the "Heroes and Heroines" series honored people who had performed heroic deeds or accomplished extraordinary acts, such as Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, rescuer of nearly 100,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazis; Lech Walesa and the Solidarity Movement of Poland; and the "code talkers" of the Second World War, those Navajo Indians who developed their language into the only secure code for the American armed forces that the enemy was never able to decipher.

 

Heroes and Heroines, Code Talker II, 1982, acrylic on canvas, 96" x 77"

Brighter colors, combinations of organic and geometric shapes, and visual tension dramatize these paintings.  Strong teases our depth perception as his forms vie with each other for placement, moving in front of and behind each other simultaneously. 

 

Heroes and Heroines, Harriet's Path, 1982, acrylic on canvas, 78" x 96"

Using a straight-edge for enhanced definition, he applied acrylic as a wash, cognizant of its limitations, not trying to achieve the heavy surfaces of his earlier canvases.  Exploring recurring themes, he approached content through the format of abstraction: not literally, the terms of illustrating the historical people or events he conceptualized, but rather as casting an overall thought structure across the entire composition.

 

 

Heroes and Heroines, Hassel's Painting, 1981-82, acrylic on canvas, 68" x 94"

He was less concerned that his audience understand the specific significance of each work than that they recognize that there was a serious statement therein that elevated the work beyond the level of decorative abstraction.

 

 Heroes and Heroines, Safe Passage (Raoul Wallenberg), 1981, acrylic on canvas, 103" x 79"

"In the best of abstract painting," says Charles Strong, "there is kind of drama, a weight, a sense of human existence.  It's an elusive kind of thing, and even the great artists don't get it all the time, but when you get it, the strength of the internal art makes the shape, so that the form and the meaning are interlocked." (1) 

 

Heroes and Heroines, Washington Water, 1981-82, acrylic on canvas, 68" x 94"

 

(1) Fire and Flux, An Undaunted Vision: The Art of Charles Strong, by Jo Farb Hernandez and Paul J. Karlstrom, with an Introduction by Steven A. Nash