The Controversial Chimpanzee-The Story of Charity


In the years I’ve been painting and doing shows, one thing I am coming to learn is that certain paintings truly belong to certain people. It’s normal for a customer take home a piece and feel happy about it, but other times a person connects with a painting that in a way, feels more like destiny. It speaks to them in a way that I can’t understand unless they tell me. Such was the case with Charity.


Back in the beginning of the year, I knew I wanted to paint a monkey in a banana dress. I don’t have internet at my house, so I went to the local library to Google some pictures. There, in the silence of the computer lab, I unexpectedly burst out laughing. In the name of good etiquette I tried to stop, but just couldn’t! Her smile had me in hysterics. I found my monkey and knew I had to paint her.


I went home and got to work immediately. Throughout the week, I worked tirelessly on her mouth and teeth. I felt it was the most important part of the piece, so I put forth an extra effort with her electric smile-it was going to make or break the entire painting. I worked on the dress next, and finally got all the bananas done (quite the tedious process), and after two weeks, she was finished.


The first time I displayed her was at a fairly conservative art show, so I didn’t expect too interaction. The second time was at Tennessee Craft Fair in Nashville. She almost sold twice. One couple came back multiple times to look at her, but the sale didn’t happen. People were walking by for three days, and either bursting into hysterics or loudly saying, “EWWW” (yes artists can hear you). I was a little taken aback at the polar opposite reactions I was getting. One man even came into my tent and asked me how I got a hold of a picture of his ex-wife.


A few more shows went by and the same things happened. One young man was on the verge of purchasing her, but his mother stood by his side the entire time and argued with him about why he shouldn’t buy it (totally bizarre).


So by the time we made it to Tomato Fest, I figured she had a great chance of finding a good home. East Nashville is a funky neighborhood with the kind of folks who are drawn to something offbeat like my Charity. But, by the show’s end, we placed her back in the bubble wrap and headed home.


The next morning I was surprised to received a message from a lady who said she’d seen her the day before at the show and thought about her all night. We exchanged a few messages and she wanted to adopt her. She asked me where I had the idea for her and I told her the library story. She then sent me this response:


"I was really struck by her yesterday...and it wasn’t until I spent all night thinking about her that I realized why. When I was little, my dad used to make all of these funny chimpanzee faces to amuse me. He would make one smiling face that looked just like charity! He has been gone a couple years no, but I feel like he’s alive in charity, and it will be an honor and a joy to have her (him!) in my home. Thank you for creating such a special piece. She will be cherished!"


As I fetched her and packed her up, I looked at that smile one last time and got teary eyed. I will miss her. I will always miss her. Charity is one of a kind.


If you’d like a GICLEE Limited Edition print of Charity, she’s available HERE



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