AETN > Programs > Charles Banks Wilson: Portrait of an American Artist

Charles Banks Wilson: Portrait of an American Artist

This 30-minute film tells the story of an 88-year old Fayetteville man who awakes every morning to draw and paint. Charles Banks Wilson earliest days are chronicled in this documentary showing film footage from the 1950s of Wilson in his old studio in Miami, Oklahoma painting the pureblood Native Americans. Wilson admits to having painted approximately 150 different tribes of Native Americans that trace their ancestry to a single tribe. The collection of original art was donated to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa in honor of Wilsons promise to his Native American models that he would not sell their images. His mutual respect and admiration for their culture is evident in his drawings and paintings that are beautifully illustrated in the program.

Written and produced by Larry Foley, professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas, the film covers Wilsons earliest days as a teenaged boy as he painted his first portrait of humorist Will Rogers, to some of his most recent works, including a portrait of folk musician Woody Guthrie.

The film highlights Wilson's lifelong work painting what he calls "pureblood" Indians - Native Americans who trace their ancestry back to a single tribe. He has also painted portraits of the famous and the poignant circumstances of common people. "Charles is not only a wonderful artist, but he's one of the most colorful storytellers I've ever known," Foley said. "I met him when he let me use some of his Indian paintings for another documentary I was producing (The Forgotten Expedition), and I was immediately enchanted by his talent and the tales of his life."

Wilson began the most expansive work of his career in 1970 when he was commissioned to paint four historical murals for the Oklahoma Capitols rotunda. Each mural is 13-feet tall and 27-feet wide.

Much of Wilson's art, and all of his pureblood portraits, are part of the permanent collection at the Gilders Museum in Tulsa. "There's a story in everything that I've done," Wilson said. "And the story is what turns me on. I think that an artist's importance is portraying his time and place, and that's what I've tried to do."

Foley, an accomplished documentary filmgoer, has earned many national and international awards, including an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, four Emmy nominations, first place awards from the Broadcast Education Association, Worldliest Houston, the Aurora Film Festival, and the International Film and Video festival. He specializes in writing and producing films on cultural history.

Foley PBS credits include Saving the Eagles, The Lost Squadron and When Lightning Struck: Saga of an American Warplane. In 2003, The Forgotten Expedition and It Started Here: Early Arkansas and the Louisiana Purchase were distributed nationally to public TV stations by the National Educational Telecommunications Association.

Last Updated 28 Jun 2018