Those who have lived in Greenville for any considerable time have noticed a change in the town’s landscape. Historic landmarks yield to new construction. Old buildings are gutted, retrofitted, and reformed into stunning structures for the way we live and do business today, while new, towering structures redefine the city from both street and sky. For some time, Greenville’s been in a constant state of evolution, and self-taught folk artist Charles Henderson has been its unofficial documentarian, chronicling this visual transformation through his detailed ink and watercolor urban landscapes.
“I really started with the baseball stadium. From there, I just started going about Greenville and painting what I saw,” Henderson says.
Many may recognize Henderson’s work from the Chicora Alley stairwell, where it used to hang. That’s where Betty Bercowski, owner of the Christopher Park Gallery, discovered him.
“I’ve known Charles for probably 10 years now, and it has been a delight to see his work develop over time. Without realizing it, he has created a visual record of downtown Greenville through the artistic depiction of many of the city’s buildings,” Bercowski says.
Urban Oasis // Henderson depicts Greenville’s evolving cityscape, showing iconic buildings like the Westin Poinsett Hotel, City Hall, and the Army/Navy Store in exaggerated detail, with bold lines and vibrant watercolor.
Most of Henderson’s urban landscapes are filled with colors elevated in vibrancy from their original source. “His method of applying multiple layers of watercolor creates saturated color normally not associated with the medium,” says Bercowski. One series features only a ballpoint pen’s black ink on white paper, Bercowski’s “personal favorites.”
Henderson’s line art is equally definitive; he outlines and paints each brick in a façade, each seam in a metal roof. This astute attention to detail is what sets his paintings apart. Henderson paints what he sees, which often includes lighting, signs, trees, and other tiny details.
For posterity, this also means that Henderson documents Greenville in a specific moment in time— a moment that may have already come and gone.
In a painting of the West End Market, Saffron’s Sidewalk Café, long closed, is the focal point. In another, the iconic downtown Hot Dog King mural peeks between trees (the building is now painted gray and is occupied by Grill Marks). Collectively, Henderson’s paintings visually record decades of Greenville in ux and progress.
“Right now, I’m mostly painting historic mill buildings in the West End before they’re all changed or remodeled,” Henderson says. “I want to show a new generation how it used to be.
View and purchase Charles Henderson’s art through the Christopher Park Gallery at www. chickenmanart.com. Cards featuring his art are available at the gallery’s storefront at 610-C S Main St, Greenville.