As a busy graduating senior, Charles Rounds III said he had completely forgotten he had entered his piece focused on defeating fascism for the Lowell Milken Center’s 2020 Art Effect Project Competition. He was quickly reminded when his teachers and mother informed him of a Zoom meeting with the center and other finalists under the guise that they had questions about his artwork. He was told to dress nice, much to his confusion.
“I got on the call and then I saw all of these executive directors that work with LMC. I was like, why aren’t there any finalists in the call?” he said. “It turns out they were just trying to tell me that I had won the grand prize. I was like, what in the world. I was so surprised.”
Rounds took home the top prize of $6,000 for his “Saved by Science” artwork, a portrait piece of Dr. Eugene Lazowski, a doctor who saved 8,000 Jews by creating a fake typhus epidemic. Thus, Nazi soldiers were scared away from them.
The competition’s goal is to instruct students on their ability to effect change through creative storytelling that honors unsung heroes, Lowell Milken Center’s site explains.
‘I’ve Made It a Passion’
Rounds has been in love with art since he was 6 or 7 years old after watching his father draw movie characters like Ghostrider. “So, I played around with it and started trying to copy his art and create it into my own. Ever since then, I’ve just been drawing. I’ve made it a passion,” the artist said.
He studied his craft at the Academic and Performing Arts Complex, or APAC, in Jackson, where he learned about the competition from his teacher last November. She gave the students a list of names to research and he was drawn to Dr. Eugene Lazowski, he said.
“Having to march long ways from home, having to be forced out of their homes and their homes being ransacked, being shot and killed and put in gas chambers, that’s mostly what I would see on documentaries,” he said.
“So seeing someone who actually acted in the shadows, actually saved many people and accomplished his task stuck to my mind a lot.”
Riots, Looting and Burning
“Saved by Science” is a blend of graphite, watercolors and burnt paper that took Rounds four to five months to complete in the midst of finishing his other course work, the artist said. Initially, he said he hadn’t planned everything out but started out with the big portrait of Dr. Lazowski in the middle and worked from there.
“I wanted to create this effect where the observer is having a one-on-one conversation with Dr. Eugene Lazowski and his older self,” he said. “In that way, I painted him bigger and around him are a series of events going into a timeline order of what actually happened.”
On the bottom right is a picture of Dr. Lazowski in a lab jacket, displaying his sophistication, humbleness, wisdom and knowledge, he said.
“Beside him is a patient lying in bed next to a doctor. It’s not necessarily him as the doctor, but it just shows how he has made an oath that he would take care of anyone in need and he would do anything to save anyone who is succumbing to death,” Rounds said.
The image next to the patient lying down shows Jews celebrating in their uniforms to show how Dr. Lazowski’s work has benefited them. The last image of a Nazi flag burning in the background shows Dr. Lazowski’s hatred for the Nazi movement, he said.
The piece is reminiscent of the chaos today between battling an unseen enemy in COVID-19 and the physical threat of police brutality. While doctors and nurses across the world are scrambling to save the lives of the sick and vulnerable, black bodies are lost at the hands of police officers. And that Nazi flag burning? That’s the representation of the various riots, looting and burning happening across America in response to unchecked injustice.
Different eras, yet similar themes.
Facing Police Brutality, Liberating People
Back in November, the artist said he created a piece based on police brutality, so it has been weird for him to craft artwork that precedes events before they happen. With his artwork, Rounds told the Lowell Milken Center that he wants to liberate people.
“Even though there’s a lot of things going around, I don’t want us to live in fear, so I want my artwork to be a representation of peace for those that are living in fear or who feel like all hope is lost at this point because there’s so much going on in the world,” the artist said.
Even though the pandemic ruined his high-school graduation from Murrah High School, Rounds is finding that hope in focusing on bettering himself as a person and artist, he said.
“I have more time to draw, do art and paint. I’m doing commissions now, so it’s really helping me to get more involved in what I do instead of being in school and having to do work and work on art at the same time,” he said.
Rounds is using his grand prize money to help pay for college and get a car. In the fall, he will attend Mississippi State University where he will pursue a double major in architecture and art.
“I want to have an architecture firm in the middle of downtown Jackson. I want to revitalize the city,” Rounds said.