Charleston artist Charly Jupiter Hamilton has died. He was 73.
Hamilton died from complications resulting from exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, according to a statement from city of Charleston.
Born in Feb. 24, 1948 in Princeton, New Jersey, Hamilton grew up on a dairy farm in Troutman, North Carolina. After graduating from Troutman High School in 1966, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a gunner’s mate aboard the fleet oiler USS Ponchatoula.
After military service, he spent 31/2 years studying literature and arts at the University of North Carolina.
Hamilton came to West Virginia in 1977 and worked as a carpenter, according to the statement.
Through the next several years, Hamilton was in and out of the state, but made Charleston his permanent home in 1985, where he gradually became the city’s most recognizable artist and one of the most prominent artists in West Virginia.
Hamilton’s art is a mixture of mischief, merriment and misery. Within the joy of his art, there was much sorrow, including some of his own, such as the accidental drowning death of his 21-year-old son, Sandor, that weighed on him, as well as his struggles with alcoholism, according to the statement.
A prolific sculptor, carver, painter and printer, Hamilton’s work has been exhibited and collected around the country but also frequently has been displayed in many area businesses, homes and is part of Charleston’s cityscape.
His “Wonder Mural,” for example, features prominently on Charleston’s West Side.
In July, Hamilton was honored by the city with a street dedicated to him, Charly Jupiter Way.
In addition to his son, Hamilton was preceded in death by his mother, Margaueite Czerna Hamilton, and father, William Kellogg Hamilton.
He is survived by wife Rhoda and son Sam Belsky, granddaughters Stacia Hamilton (Mike Perez), Sharley Hamilton, great-granddaughter Fable Perez, siblings Bill (Karen) Hamilton, Kathy Hamilton Vaughn, Elizabeth (Betse) Hamilton and Mary Margaret (Robert) Tripp.