Peter “Charlie” Attie Besharo


produced more than seventy oil paintings on canvas, paper, and board that reflected his interest in outer space, alien invasions, and interactions and conflicts with aliens,together with ethnic and religious overtones. Besharo, whose ethnic background was SyrianLebanese, lived in Lebanon before immigrating to Leechburg, Pennsylvania,in 1912, where he worked briefly for a haberdasher and then as a peddler of dry goods to mining camps. For most of his life, he was self-employed as a sign andhousepainter.Besharo’s interest in making paintings was an extension of his obsession with space. The owners of Tony’s Lunch in Leechburg, where Besharo appeared daily for ameal, as well as his cousin remember that the artist often carried a roll of butcher paper, on which he calculated the distances to planets and the moon in addition towhen the Earth was going to run “out of oxygen.” He painted rocket ships fueled by atomic power, alien invaders, aggressors, victims, heroes, saints, and sinners. In his paintings Besharo traversed historical time and geographical space, combining biblical conflict and early weapons such as bows and arrows with deadly, futuristic-looking rays of light. Single images, such as rocket ships or spacemen, were subjects of this work, as were more complex compositions that were often divided intosmaller units, such as in his painting
All Seeing Eye.
Besharo used deep colors, and his palette was saturated with earth tones—brown, yellow, rust, and green—as well as black and white, punctuated with red and blue. He repeated images, such as the allseeing Besharo eye as well as crosses, candles, scales, and chains, which seem to have symbolic significance. It is not alwayseasy to understand Besharo’s narratives, though he often provided neatly painted English and, occasionally, Arabic text references and dates, which generally reveallittle about the accompanying images. As a result, the meanings of many of his works remain enigmatic.Besharo was much affected by the World Wars, the development of nuclear power, the Cold War, and his own experiences as an Arab living as a member of aminority group in his adopted country. Popular culture, as reflected in comics, pulp magazines, and illustrated books, may also have influenced his conceptual ideas and visual forms. Besharo transformed all that he sawinto a personal vocabulary of form.Besharo’s painted fantasy adventures in space and interplanetary interaction appeal to a universal interest in transcending mundane, everyday life and replacing it withexciting and surprising journeys. Rooted in his Arab heritage, the conflicts of his early life in Lebanon, and his integration into local American community life, in particular his involvement in church and fraternal organizations, Besharo takes a broad historical view—albeit with a liberal mixture of fact and fiction—and foresees eventualcosmic peace.
See also
Painting, American Folk
Kogan, Lee. “New Museum Encyclopedia Myths.”
The Clarion,
vol. 15, no. 5 (winter 1990/1991): 53–56..“Peter Charlie Besharo,” in
Self-Taught Artists of the Twentieth Century: An American Anthology,
edited by Elsa Longhauser, et al. New York: Museum of AmericanFolk Art, 1998.