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Oct 30, 2018 10:00 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Artist Charles Wildbank Talks Life And Paintings At Our Lady Of The Hamptons

A line of paintings by Charles Wildbank on display at Our Lady of the Hamptons Regional Catholic School. JON WINKLER
Oct 30, 2018 10:00 AM

Charles Wildbank stands in front of dozens of students at Our Lady of the Hamptons Regional Catholic School talking about his life of photorealism paintings. He’s years removed from a time when he was a Catholic school student himself at Saint Aidan’s School in Williston Park, New York in the 1950s.

“It’s very different to be here,” Mr. Wildbank said. “The kids are more spontaneous here. Back in the 1950s, everything was so regimented. These kids are way ahead, they’re a very different set of people.”

Mr. Wildbank visited the Southampton Catholic school last week at the behest of Shelley Borkoski, the school’s special education teacher, who met Mr. Wildbank at a craft fair in Westhampton last summer.

“We started chatting and he told me how he once taught special education,” Ms. Borkoski said. “I thought it would be great to have him talk about overcoming the obstacles in his life.”

Born deaf, Mr. Wildbank grew up with little ridicule from other kids, but had no art program while attending Chaminade High School in Mineola. All he had to further his love of painting was a local art competition, in which he followed the theme of justice by designing a tribute to John F. Kennedy shortly after his assassination.

His style was striking enough to earn him a fellowship at Yale University. Eventually, he attended Colombia University with the goal of teaching deaf students like himself.

Ms. Borkoski hoped that her students, as well as other students in the school, might be inspired by Mr. Wildbank’s story.

“A lot of my students have learning needs, but they also have artistic abilities,” Ms. Borkoski said. “Art makes them feel stronger in the fact that they have a skill. They’re a lot more involved than you realize.”

After college, Mr. Wildbank did fulfill his dream of teaching elementary school students in Montreal for four years, and then in New York for three years. Eventually, the paintings he created in his spare time inspired him to pursue painting professionally.

His work ranged from a rendition of the Cartier diamond to a simple bowl of candy.

“It looks so realistic,” said Alicia Seckel, an art teacher at Our Lady of the Hamptons. “It’s important for them to see how realistic the paintings are and understand the patience it takes to do this.”

Mr. Wildbank left the students with inspiring messages to continue to pursue their passions.

“I learned to complete every task I set out to do,” he said. “You learn to finish it, and that it’s not so good to leave things undone. The opinion that matters is your own. Don’t compromise yourself.”

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