Charles Wilkin’s career as a collage artist began in college, when he arrived late to a drawing seminar equipped only with some poorly printed photos from a previous class. Rather than marking him as unprepared, the teacher suggested he use the photos to make a collage. By the end of class, it was clear he had found his calling. The collages he makes today, often perceived as dark or disturbing, have evolved from abstractions into something more narrative and conceptually analytical. “I find that revealing the ugliness of human behavior helps make finding the joy and beauty in life easier and much more meaningful,” he says.
Despite the dark subject matter of his collages, Wilkin began to feel that an element of danger was missing from his life. He considered taking up skydiving but when he couldn’t find anyone to join him, decided instead on beekeeping. “After taking a class, I quickly realized the ‘danger’ of beekeeping was not even remotely close to what’s involved in jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet,” he laughs. Nevertheless, it turned out to be the inspiration he was seeking and has given him a renewed sense of direction, calmness and clarity. “Beekeeping has taught me the importance of living in the moment and has influenced my work in ways I’ve yet to understand completely, which makes it so rewarding.”
“I find that revealing the ugliness of human behavior helps make finding the joy and beauty in life easier and much more meaningful.”
Living upstate also comes with its own elements of danger. “Watching a bear flatten himself like a piece of paper and slip between the wires of the electric fence around my bee yard is hands-down the most exciting wildlife experience I’ve ever had,” recalls Wilkin. “Luckily my yelling and screaming—from a distance—changed his mind about helping himself to my honey.” The delicious harvest from his 12 hives gets packaged in jars under Wilkin’s Two Queens label and sold online and at Maison Bergogne and Heirloom Acres, both in Narrowsburg.
Although the contrast between his city and country lives—and all the commuting that requires—sometimes feels like a vicious cycle, Wilkin is grateful to have both. Ultimately, he’d like to be based full-time in Narrowsburg, the place he considers his true home. “My life upstate is more about really living, loving, slowing down and taking time to reconnect with the things that matter most.” Throw in a little danger and what more could anyone want?