The art of benches, documentaries & jazzy faces



Here’s a 2021 video homage to Charles Jupiter Hamilton’s epic public art masterpiece, the ‘Wonder Mural’ in Charleston, W.Va.

by douglas john imbrogno | september21.2023

So, I see that Jeff Pierson and crew are up to their usual task of making the capital city of West Virginia a more artistically welcome place with the launch of the ‘Charly Bench’ today in Elk City (which is what they are re-branding the West Side of Charleston, W.Va.). It’s an almost life-size figure, just as colorful as one of Charles Jupiter Hamilton’s paintings or carvings, which will sit on a bench near Charly’s public art masterpiece, the ‘Wonder Mural’ across from Gonzo Burger at 207 Washington St.

The figure pays homage to the beloved artist and his kaleidoscopic work. Charly’s art conveys the weirdness, whackness and wonderfulness of life and the people in it via visions from the denizens of heaven, hell and purgatory, as you will note in my ‘Elegy to Charly‘ video. I posted it in September 2021, on the occasion of the artist’s passing. It pays doting respect to his Wonder Mural, which is indeed full of wonders and which changes every single viewpoint and direction from which you approach it in Elk City. Peace, my friend, and thanks for coloring inside and outside the lines in West Virginia and beyond.

PS: View a slideshow of some of Charly’s work at:


A shot from the Sept. 17, 2023, premiere on the main stage of the Clay Center in Charleston, W.Va., of “HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton. | Photo courtesy of David Imbrogno

I may have more to say at some future date on the art and stress of independent guerilla filmmaking, and the challenge of crowdfunding thousands of dollars for big projects that you also pay for out of your wife’s purse, plus some significant seed simoleans from your one well-to-do buddy from high school who believes in you and your big brainstorms. For now, suffice it to say this:

It’s not for wimps.

Yet after almost two years of heavy labor, headaches, hundreds of hours of shooting, editing, scanning, cogitating and working deep in the video mines at my co-producing colleague Bobby Lee Messer’s place, we birthed “HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton.” The world premiere of the hour-long documentary unfolded on the main stage in the glorious confines of the Clay Center in Charleston, WV, on Sunday, Sept. 17. Above is a photographic roundup of what — if I may say so — was a pretty epic cultural event in West Virginia’s capital in one of the state’s most majestic venues. We had almost 300 people gathered where the W.Va. Symphony normally sits to witness this handiwork and labor of love, art, stoytelling and artistry.


Scenes from the Sept. 17, 2023 premiere of “HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton.’

The audience got a wide-ranging tour of the ups and down, the trials, tribulations and tests, that shaped Robert, a world-class artist who paints onward at age 85 on a remote West Virginia mountaintop, his jovial heart still beating strong. Below is a favorite shot from the pre-screening reception in the Juliet Art Gallery, as the film’s co-producers — myself and Mister Messer — flank one of Robert’s engrossing cloud and horizon line paintings, which is in the Clay Center’s permanent collection.

FOR NEWS OF FUTURE SCREENINGS and to follow the film’s progress as we submit to to contests and festivals hither, yon, and beyond, free subscribe to:

The documentarians (do I really get to call myself that?!?) flank the Robert Singleton work “The Gathering” in the Clay Center’s Juliet Gallery. (At left) Bobby Lee Messer and Douglas John Imbrogno.


The Bob Thompson Band | illustration

Two days after the premiere, quite exhausted and in search of something other to do than fret and obsess about Birthing Major Creative Endeavors (BMCE), I made my way back to Charleytown to hear the Bob Thompson Band this past Tuesday. Like Robert Singleton, Bob is an eightysomething (80 on the nose, actually), who stubbornly refuses to stop being a wonderful and active artist in the world, as he continues to share his mondo artistry even as he works on his ninth decade of earthly incarnation.

Bob is one of West Virginia’s handful of musicians who make their living full-time in music. When you hear this world-class jazz pianist at the keys you instantly hear why. I caught up with his band in downtown Charleston — an all-star grouping featuring Tim Courts on drums, John Inghram on bass, and one of my oldest musical compadres, Ryan Kennedy, on smooth-as-silk guitar. (Hear Ryan ramp up my song “Stars and Planets (Laurie’s Song)” on Spotify on my first album, “Saint Stephen’s Dream.”)

Video by

Instead of crocheting bibs for babies or tending to non-existent roses on my deck, I make videos and graphics when I have time to kill. So, the video above is nothing more than a video crochet from some of the images and audio which my iPhone — it just couldn’t help itself — captured at The Roq.

Happily, for those of us who used to hang out at prior incarnations of the space, The Roq has reopened and revived the downstairs club in the historic Quarrier Diner at 1022 Quarrier St. Bob and crew spice up the place the first and third Tuesdays of the month on club’s weekly Jazz Night, with live music from other genres heard other evenings. Check them out at this link. And, no, this is not paid propaganda for either The Roq or Bob’s band. It’s just what happens when you give a guy an iPhone and he is done with his BMCE and looking around for other things to knit.

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