Painting for Peace
Christopher Lane is putting all his energy into his art, in an effort to help unite America
By ABE DANAHER
For one month, Christopher Lane could not move. Because of repercussions from a car accident that had occurred years prior, he found himself staring death straight in the eyes. But instead of being scared, he realized how valuable his time left on earth was. In his white-walled hospital room, he decided he wasn’t going to waste a minute of it.
“I was in a place where people were sicker than I was and they didn’t leave,” he says now, four years later. “I got out of there. And I know there’s a limited amount of time, but I decided I’m going to make it count.”
Since then, Lane has committed himself to his art. He spends 60 hours a week perfecting oil paintings in a small studio in West Columbia. And now, as he prepares the final pieces for his solo exhibition, he hopes his art can mend the growing divide that he sees in the world around him.
“I want people leaving my exhibit just paying attention to what’s going on around them,” he says. “We are all in this together.”
As a kid, Lane struggled in school. He had trouble reading, and many of his classmates and teachers thought he was a slow learner. It wasn’t until he was tested for dyslexia after failing seventh grade twice that he figured out why he was different.
The dyslexia did not help him become a model student, but it did push him toward art. Instead of learning through words, Lane learned through photos. In textbooks, he would focus on the pictures and try to draw them himself.
“In my delusion of grandeur speeches that I give in the mirror holding a comb, I’m like, ‘I would really like to thank dyslexia,’” he says. “I wouldn’t be here without it. It helped me find my niche.”
At age 25, after a stint in the Navy, he found himself in Charleston with a paint brush and a blank canvas. There, he lived the fast life, splitting time between working as a chef at McCrady’s and trying to make it as an artist. He used watercolor to paint shells, chairs and bottles, but his work never made it beyond the walls of local coffee shops. He was lost, until he spoke with older artists who nudged him in the right direction.
He says, “They asked me, ‘what are you painting for?’ And I said I’m painting because I love it.”
The realization led him to leave Charleston for Columbia to focus on his craft. He learned to be more patient when he worked. Instead of rushing to finish the day’s watercolor painting, he switched to oil and began spending months just to finish one work. Still, he partied, but finally he realized the importance of art in his life.
And then, four years ago as he lay in a hospital bed, he realized just how fragile his life was, and how fragile the nation around him was growing. He may have been unable to move, but he remained plugged into the nation’s political discourse and identified a growing divide. There, on the verge of death he decided that he was going to commit the rest of his life to painting, with the hope that his artwork could somehow help promote unity in America.
The result of that decision can be seen at the Kyo Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 10. Lane is displaying the works he created since lying in the hospital bed, as part of the “Resist Division” exhibition.
His work at the exhibition will focus on power systems that have existed throughout history and the result of political division in the past. One piece, titled, “Rumors of War,” depicts scenes from every war on this planet. He fears that his beloved country may be headed toward a dark place and hopes that his work leads visitors to “keep talking.”
“There might be someone there who is in politics,” he says, knowing how close the exhibit is to Washington, D.C. “And if they are going to make a decision, maybe they will see my work and think a little deeper before they make it.”
Christopher Lane is healthy now and lives a simple life. He paints, sells his work, pays his bills, and repeats. He doesn’t make much money – just enough to live modestly and stay out of debt – but he doesn’t mind the struggle. Fame and riches carry no importance to him. There’s only one thing he cares about.
“I don’t want to be the alpha painter of the world,” he says. “I’m not Picasso. I just want to keep going.”