Artist Charles Fine on Finding Inspiration in Mexico’s Abundant Nature

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Charles Fine
Charles Fine wears his own clothingPhotography by Maripol

In the latest issue of AnOther Magazine, the Los Angeles-based artist talks about travelling to a small lake town in the mountains of Mexico in the 1970s

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of AnOther Magazine:

“I was a very restless young man, bouncing around the world travelling, especially in Mexico. In 1975 I visited a small valley my friend purchased near Valle de Bravo, a little town on a lake in the mountains of Mexico. He bought a dilapidated former hacienda, and I watched as local workers rehabilitated the house and made an organic avocado ranch. All the locals had adobe houses and plots of land that they grew corn on to make tortillas. I was surrounded by all this self-sustaining life. They had no electricity, the roads were marginal and when it rained it was a mud pit, but they were living off the land. I took so much in from their inventiveness and their ability to make their own implements, which were very rustic and beautiful. Some of them were so contemporary, almost like Brâncuşi sculptures. The textures and tones were so rich, the earth was red-brown and there was a patchwork quilt of irrigation patterns with little houses on them. All of it was beautiful and it made such an impression. The influence wasn’t literal, it was just the materials, the patinas of things, the wear. It evoked something that had a life to it. There’s an environmental underpinning to all my work — it’s about expressing a real reverence for nature. Through my paintings and sculptures I try to inspire or coax a memory of a time that isn’t so manufactured and plastic.” 

Although his respect for the natural world is clear, Charles Fine is careful that his environmentally inclined artwork is not labelled as “preachy” by others. Across hallucinatory, abstract paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and videos, the American artist, now in his seventies, has been channelling mother nature’s influence for more than four decades. Fine became an artist as the Light and Space movement that emerged in 1960s southern California was gaining worldwide attention, although after reading the books of the British environmentalist James Lovelock, he chose to utilise natural elements over the artificial ones favoured by the likes of James Turrell and Robert Irwin, both pioneers of the movement. Now based in South Central Los Angeles, Fine draws inspiration from the abundant nature and culture in southern California and Mexico, having amassed a vast collection of archaeological relics and fragile found objects during his travels there. There are Mexican flora, fauna, marine fossils, mutant pod seeds, ceremonial stone objects, bone implements and ancient tools, all illustrating his holistic, lifelong interest in ecosystems, history, decay and evolution. 

Production co-ordinator: Lino Meoli. Post-production: Samy’s Camera 

This story features in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale now. Order here.