Austin’s Reclusive Prodigal Painter Chamel Raghu

Austin, Texas is a city that prides itself on being weird and highly creative. It’s home to techies, musicians and artists alike, and was recently named one of the fastest growing cities in the United States — bringing in upwards of 90 new people per day.

Amongst the growing creative capital we found Chamel Raghu, a recluse painter once regarded as a modern day Van Gogh. We had the pleasure of interviewing the talent and diving into his thoughts on his art and more!

Born in Cleveland, OH and raised in Odessa, TX, Chamel had a normal childhood where drawing and playing with family members were part of his daily routine. Creating art for him became “something innate; like a kid who constantly does flips and becomes a gymnast.”

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He arrived in Austin to attend the University of Texas in 1997. Hook em! Sorry, when in Austin…

In 2012, Harvard Review wrote an article naming Chamel an art prodigy based on his drawings as an eight year old — using pen and ink to display depth like an artist many years his senior. This particular image garnered high praise from Frank Magazine.

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Chamel submitted a sketch for the new World Trade Center monument in 2002. The geometric design of two buildings slanted, titled, the World Bridge, symbolized bringing nations together in peace and leaning on each other. The sketch was featured on CNN’s website along with hundreds of other potential proposals.

Some years later, Chamel would stumble upon a photo of a war monument located in Lisbon, Portugal which resembled his World Bridge in an all too uncanny way.

The World BridgeAfter doing some digging, I uncovered the Portugal war monument was unveiled in February 2000, two years before Chamel publicly released the World Bridge sketch. Chamel, however, stands by his design and ultimately feels that his art was stolen.

 

He stated, “…if there were simply a letter asking for my permission to bring the World Bridge to life in a war monument I would have said yes in an instant. Or, even if they did not ask for my permission but attributed the design to my name I would have been o.k. with that as well.” Monumento Combatentes Ultramar

Issues with international copyright and the time left Chamel with no options of legal action. He’s avoided the public eye and became more guarded about sharing his work.

Eventually, rumors about a dip in Chamel’s physical ability began to spread. His lack of public visibility fueled rumors that he’d become disabled because he hadn’t released any new work. Chamel quickly put all the rumors to bed when asked about a possible injury or disability. He does have an issue with his wrist, but in no way has it impaired his ability to keep making beautiful art.

In fact, when I asked him about new art he said, “I have some work that has not been shown, and maybe some other stuff…”

Chamel, a very humble artist, has gained another fan. You can probably find him indulging in one of the many breakfast tacos available here or enjoying the notorious BBQ from Rudy’s BBQ.

The big question remains, will Chamel Raghu grace the Austin art community again?

I guess we can only wait.

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