The house is art

SANDUSKY Charles Mayer's refrigerator is about the only blank surface in his home. E
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Charles Mayer's refrigerator is about the only blank surface in his home.

Even the wood floors have rugs worthy of an art exhibit on textiles.

The ironic comic on Mayer's freezer in his eccentric home that doubles as an art gallery might be the only reproduced low-end artwork in the entire house.

"Actually, we prefer the 'sparse look' " one character in the comic says to another in a cluttered living room. "We just can't afford a place big enough to achieve it."

Mayer sees truth in the comic: His walls, floor space and even dining room table are covered with art, but his home doesn't seem cluttered and he might be able to afford the space if he stopped buying artwork.

Mayer, 65, is a retired school teacher and artist who still tutors students privately in his Warren Street home while running the Sandusky Cultural Center and amassing a collection of art fitting of the Smithsonian.

A tour through Mayer's home is a bit like going to the Smithsonian Art Institute in Washington D.C. — it's impossible to appreciate the collection in a day, maybe even two or three.

Work that covers every free space in Mayer's home rotates, not so much for his personal tastes -- he knows just where he likes each clay piece, oil painting and sculpture -- art museums ask Mayer for pieces on loan and he usually obliges.

The gallery of a home overcomes the architecture of the house  his grandfather built, with several large windows covered to prevent artworks' overexposure to light, and a fireplace has been walled in to add space for more photos. It hasn't looked like a gallery until Mayer's generation.

Take the artwork off, and the walls wouldn't be in much of a condition to look at.

Mayer admits he's forsaken updates like taking down wood wall paneling in favor of leaving the wall in a condition allowing for work to be hung.

"I'm not big on drapes, they take away space I need the wall space for art."

Even his bathroom is a gallery with a Papua, New Guinea, tribal influence. It's more a 360-degree exhibit in a few square feet than a bathroom.

A humble artist, Mayer's own work is mostly relegated to a stairwell going down to the basement.

"I've spent so much time promoting other artists, I don't put much time into promoting my own," he said.

Mayer has made a life of promoting the arts, and his collector personality developed early in his journey as an artist when he began buying pieces produced by his art institute professors.

I bought one piece of work from a professor, and he told me it was the highest compliment anyone could bestow on him, making a financial investment in an artist's work, Mayer said.

"i thought it would be a nice way of remembering them."

After that, his initial tendency to collect turned into a priority.

He explained his devotion to the arts consuming his home as his cause.

"Some support politics, others support churches or hospitals, I support the arts."

He's drawn to the interesting and unusual; you won't find a print of a lighthouse painting in his home.

" You have to bring something more to it, there has to be something there. If its something everyone has done, I'm not interested. Show me something you're doing in a different way no one else has done it," he said. He described his eye for art as slightly askew from center, not conservative, and admits he has an attraction for art on the edges not close to comfortable stereotypical subjects.

"I've painted the boy and the boot once, but he was a skeleton," he said chuckling and alluding to his artistic taste.

His living room is absent one feature most American homes think is a necessity: a large television.

But Mayer does watch TV, and the shows he watches might surprise people. He said he enjoys and watches South Park, the Daily Show and Colbert Report to listen to what young people are thinking and hearing.

It's how he stays young.

"I don't like rap music but I like to know its out there and why," he said. "It's really important as people age to keep in contact with the younger generation."

His living room sofa is a large wood piece he calls a "couch."

The living room, dining room, kitchen all have wood furniture, almost all antique. The only soft furniture in the home are guest beds and Mayer's own bed.

"I like wood," he said. "I don't much find a use for cushions."

He does have pillows adorned by skeletons, but they're artwork by Nina Vivian Huryn.

As you tour Mayer's home you see recurrent themes and artists, like Huryn and clay worker Gary Spinosa, who recently had an exhibit in Cleveland made up of a majority of pieces Mayer has collected over the years. Huryn's skeletons, who aren't spooky and show a full range of human emotion, and   Spinosa's clay work, with pre-dyed clays as opposed to glazes, are about expression of ideas, he said.

"Art should be about ideas," Mayer said.

Home should be about ideas too, and Mayer's ideas are art.