Live the paradaoxes - celebrate the equinoxes - unite equal opposites.
Charles' philosophy of "Equal Opposites".
“Life is a paradox. It is both a mystery to be lived and a problem to be solved.” In Charles Breed’s art he explores the paradox of life – the fine line between rational and irrational, facts and feelings, real and imagined. He was always fascinated by the mobius, an object that appears to have two sides but really has only one side. To illustrate another paradox - “If you wish to live, you must first attend your own funeral” (Katherine Mansfield) – he celebrated his funeral on his eighty-first birthday.
Charles art also celebrates nature. He believes that death and taxes are not the only absolutes in life. The equinoxes, solstices, sun and moon risings are cyclic constants that can enrich our daily lives – offering stability as permanent, positive absolutes. At his Traverse City cottage, he built an environment to watch the full moon rise. The themes of nature and the seasons resonate throughout his artwork. Shapes are often plant inspired. Sensual, encircling lines represent the cycles of life.
“Feelings are the realities of the imagination, facts are the realities of life. When all the facts are arranged, through feelings, into a satisfying form, the result is a composed order expression.” – Alden B. Dow
Charles first attempt to unite equal opposites occurred before he met Alden Dow. As an eighteen-year-old, Charles made a two-headed car as an art/shop project. Later, he ran for president of the United States on a platform of equality-balance-centering – proposing that senators be elected in equal numbers of men and women.
In 1960 Charles received a grant from the Dow Chemical Foundation to develop plastic as a fine art medium. For twenty-six years he used polyester to create artwork unlike any made before. With a studio at the Post Street Workshop, he developed several different methods of constructing plastic art.
In some cases, liquid polyester was poured freehand onto waxed glass or mixed with other materials and molded. Other artwork was created with polyester cast into silicone molds. Two other methods are similar to cloisonné – in one, polyester was cast in strips and bent to form a design. Colored polyester was then poured between the strips. In the other “cloisonné” method, a linear design is carved in wax and polyester was cast into the carving. After curing, pigmented polyester is poured between the ridges of the casting.
Much of Charles' artwork was not sold and can be seen at the Equiline Museum, located at the top of Dahlia Hill.
Charles Breed came to Midland in 1950 after seeing and admiring Alden B. Dow's architecture. Since then he has become nationally known for his pioneering work in plastics, having been a recipient of a Research Fellowship from the Dow Foundation to explore plastic as a new art form. His work was featured in the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City, the Smithsonian Institute of Washington D.C. and in other major juried and invitational exhibitions. In 1971 he was one of four Americans chosen for the first International Small Sculpture Biennial in Budapest, Hungary. Articles about him and his art have been in House Beautiful, People Magazine, Adornment Magazine, Paramount News and CBS's P.M. Magazine. His work is in private and corporate collections and commissions for municipal, religious and civic organizations in America, Japan, Canada and Denmark.
Honored as an "Outstanding Michigan Artist" by Governor George Romney in 1965, Charles also received the "Governor's Award for Excellence in Design" in 1978 from Governor William Milliken. He was awarded a "Master Grant in Plastics" by the Michigan Council for the Arts in 1982, a "Lifetime Artistic Achievement" Award from Arts Midland in 2001 and a "Distinguished Artists and Educators" Award from Western Michigan University School of Art in 2003.
Charles taught art for over 40 years on all educational levels. He taught and directed programs for Delta College, the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University and the National Music Camp, was a past president of the Michigan Art Education Association and received the Bergstein "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" Award while at Delta College. He served as a consultant and lecturer on design and was active in other local, state and national art educational and cultural organizations.
The business he started in 1958, Equiline Design Ltd., makes art pieces based on his designs. All profits from sales are donated to the Dahlia Hill Society. All of Charles' work is signed with the logo OlllO, which is a stylized adaptation of his last name.
Exhibited 25 times in the Juried Annual Shows sponsored by the Saginaw Art Museum and the Midland Art Council of the Midland Center for the Arts. Dates are as follows, rather than listing each year individually within the chronological order of exhibitions.
The museums on top of Dahlia Hill contain the original artwork of Charles Breed, known nationally for his innovative work using plastic as an art medium. The museums are called Equiline, which was originally the name of Charles' business - it refers to how two seemingly contradictory philosophies can coexist. For example, it is possible to be a romantic pragmatist or a liberal conservative.
The majority of the art is based on botanical and floral shapes - especially the dahlia. The four cast aluminum sculptures on Dahlia Hill are abstract dahlias with human characteristics representing the four stages of life.
Free tours are available Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. If you would like a tour when you are at Dahlia Hill, please contact us to make arrangements.