Leo Charre, A Short Artist’s History.
I was born July 31, 1975 in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. I grew up in Mercedes, a city an hour west of Buenos Aires.
At age ten, my family moved to Waynesboro, VA in the US for my father’s work for DuPont. We moved again to Argentina and then we lived in Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brasil until I was 16- and we moved again to Waynesboro, VA.
I’ve lived most of my adult life in MA, MD, DC, VA.
The bureaucracy of Argentinean society boiled over into every part of the culture. Even in primary school, grading was in large part due to proper underlining in correct colors and spacing.
A good student was one who could memorize the names and geographical courses of every major river in every continent.
Drawing in this education system was not a separate “art class” affair. History classes often consisted of drawing elaborate scenes to depict the native tribes of Argentina- which the teachers had no answer as to “where are all these people now?”
As dates of note rolled through the year, we had to draw historical figures, mostly despotic military tyrants dead for a hundred years covered in laurel wreaths, Santa Claus, and of course Jesus Christ on the cross.
My mother would assist me in these homework assignments, with tracing and drawing. She was my first art teacher.
Being exposed to American culture at age ten was a shock- the freedom seemed almost chaotic and laughable. Kids could wear whatever they wanted. In Argentina we had to wear matching white overalls meant to show equality amongst all students- thankfully the cleanliness and brand of the ‘delantales’ still highlighted to the children as to which came from wealth or poverty.
Living in Brasil until age 16 I attended a small American certified private school. I found myself part of a group of other international kids from Cincinnati, OH to Kyoto, Japan, whose corporate parents were also mortified about the idea of exposing their children to the tragedy of Brasilian public education. Our teachers were overqualified graduate students from the US who were very happy to take up an opportunity to get paid double the salary they’d get back home, income tax free. My computer class was taught by a formal Navy commander who used to track for Soviet nukes over the Arctic.
The valuable lessons I learned from 1980s American public schools were not obvious until my twenties.
I was SGA president in my senior year at Waynesboro High School. I dropped out of high school because I was not allowed inside unless dressed to code. I got my GED at Valley Vocational Technical School in Fishersville, VA in 1993.
Beverley Street Studio School - Staunton, VA, 1993
Etching, figure drawing.
VCU Foundation Arts Program - Richmond, VA, 1994
Painting, graphic design.
SMFA Fine Arts, Boston, MA 1997
Painting, Printmaking, Photography, figure drawing- endless figure drawing.
Lead Concept Artist - Sommerville, MA 1998
Friends of friends were crashing my apartment in Allston, MA - they were coming in for an interview with a video game company, doing graphics and concept art. They suggested I should apply. I was shocked to get an interview- and more so when I got the job as lead concept artist at GameFX, in Sommerville, MA. That’s how I dropped out of formal schooling for the third time.
Taxi Driver - Boston, MA 1999
Concept art for video games was a cooshy well paid but soul sucking job. I heard on NPR that the sax player for Morphine had been driving a cab in Boston for twenty years before they got somewhere. So.. that’s how I left the video game industry.
Artist - Charlottesville, VA 2000
I had left Boston, broke and desperate- and met one Dolan Geiman who demonstrated selling art on the street was a good idea. I did this off and on for three years. It was exciting and I sold my first painting for 3k in some now defunct gallery in downtown Charlottesville.
Entry Level Programmer and Web Developer - Easton, MD 2003
A girl I was with in Virginia left me to move back home- I pursued, and she said if I left my pathetic financial career as an artist and took up a real job she would live with me. I think it was a challenge for me- and I had a long history with computers- coding sicce age 8. That’s how this happened.
Mostly I did graphics and websites- I’d look at coding books and they’d say.. “Don’t worry, that’s not required of you.”
Senior Programmer and Developer - Kensington, MD 2005
Here I did some crazy unix perl haxor shit. Under the tutelage of my boss and friend Charles Hamilton. This was a small office environment handling taxes for local business accounts.
Artist - Staunton, VA 2010 to present.
I left coding and wasn’t sure where to go next. I decided to take a break, get a studio in a small town close to my parents for a while before I went to Chicago, or NY. I had planned for six months.
My first studio was in a warehouse that used to be a car shop- with my artist friend Grail Ogzewalla, and later with the artist Andrew Davis. I came to realize next door were other art people. Here I met the artist Angus Carter. I thought I’d stay another six months.
I started selling art at parties, underground music shows we hosted- and eventually online. I fell in love with the area, with friends I made, and my now wife; who is a local born and raised.
For a year I opened a storefront gallery in downtown Staunton called Dwell, with artists Steve Kizer, Andrew Davis and Craig Snodgrass.
For a year I’ve been living in Charlottesville, VA with my wife who is a prestigious graphic designer, and two cats.
I work from home often- and for messier work, shipping, and other strange things, I work in my studio in the Crowle building in downtown Staunton, VA.
I drink, I smoke, I party. I read the news, listen to loud music, and always wear my seatbelt. I adore my family, friends, and other artists.