Charles Eugene Gagnon was born on February 24, 1934, to Eugene and
Inez Gagnon in Minneapolis, MN. From an early age, Chuck expressed a love for art, often drawing and carving soap, wood, clay, and even potatoes. Also, Chuck competitively played golf, baseball, and speed skated. There was a tradition in his family that all boys must go to De La Salle High School. In order to attend, Chuck created his own job to dive into the ponds at golf courses and retrieve golf balls to help pay for his education. After graduating high school in 1952, Chuck joined the Navy, and later earned Associate’s (1956), Bachelor’s (1958), and Master’s (1960) degrees from the University of Minnesota. In 1957 through 1958, he was one of ten US students chosen to teach in military-dependent schools in Germany.
While studying at the University of Minnesota, Chuck held several
summer jobs outside of the Twin Cities. In 1962, he initiated the Art
Department at Lourdes High School in Rochester, MN and taught sculpture at the Rochester Art Center. He was offered his first studio in Dr. and Mrs. Howard Rome’s carriage house and held his first sculpture exhibition in Dr. and Mrs. John Hill’s garden. Chuck began his career showing his bronze sculptures and receiving exhibition awards in New York City. He held exhibitions at the National Academy of Galleries, the National Arts Club, and the Madison Avenue Art Gallery, where he was honored with the purchase award. During this time, he also exhibited at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In 1963 Chuck exhibited in the AHDA Artz Gallery and the Village Art Center in New York City, which led to write-ups in the Parisian La Revue Moderne.
In 1964, Chuck married Arlyn Wind, artist and teacher, in Rochester,
MN. They spent their first years in Florence, Italy, where Chuck studied
Renaissance sculptures and cast his bronze sculptures in a 13th century Italian
castle, Castello di Vincigliata. They lived on a mountain in Tuscany with an
Italian family. During this time, Chuck met sculptor Jacques Lipchitz. “I felt
very fortunate to have studied with him,” Chuck reminisced. “We became good
friends, a friendship that continued until Lipchitz’s death in 1973. I once asked
him why he had helped me so much, and he replied it was because I had the
When Chuck and Arlyn returned to Rochester in 1965, Chuck exhibited
sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The exhibition resulted in his
first commission in 1966, when he was asked to create a processional cross for
St. John’s Church in Darwin, MN. Later, St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, MN commissioned Chuck to create an heroic-sized bronze sculpture of Saint Francis and the Birds. Saint Francis and the Birds was unveiled in 1969 at St. Mary’s Hospital’s Saint Francis Courtyard.Dancer Stretching, commissioned by Mayo Clinic, was unveiled in the same year, as well as his open cross Crucifixion in thenarthex of Zumbro Lutheran Church.
In 1971, an alumni of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio commissioned
for a bronze sculpture out of appreciation for his education. The Renaissance Man and Woman was unveiled in June in 1973 at Kenyon College, in celebration of its first women graduates after 147 years of only male students. In 1971, the Mayo Clinic commissioned Chuck for a bust of Conrad Hilton to commemorate the opening of the Hilton building unveiled in 1974. The following year, Chuck was commissioned to create a bronze sculpture, Flower Form, for a private collector in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1975, Creation, a figurative bronze sculpture was donated to Temple Jeremiah, Chicago, Illinois. In 1978, he was commissioned by 127 Andersen Windows distributors to create a life-sized bronze portrait of founder, Fred C. Andersen, for the corporate headquarters in Bayport, MN. The citizens of Nobles County, MN, commissioned for a life-sized bronze relief portrait of U.S. Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey for their Government Center, unveiled in 1979.
With a continually growing reputation, Chuck was commissioned by a private collector in 1984 to create the Celebration/Emergence of Life for his garden in Barrington Hills, Illinois which was dedicated in 1993. Also, that same year, a private collector from Uruguay donated Saint Francis and the Birds sculptures to the Vatican Art Collection in Rome, Italy. In 1987, Chuck was presented with the Mayor’s Medal of Honor for Artistic and Cultural Achievement in his hometown of Rochester, MN. In 1989, Chuck and Arlyn moved into the home, the apple orchard and the birds inspired Chuck to name the property and studio, Wingtree. During the same year, Rochester commissioned Chuck for an enlargement of the Peace Fountain unveiled that summer in the Peace Plaza during Rochesterfest.
In 1992, Chuck was commissioned by the Association of Nonsmokers to create a sculpture, entitledSmokescreen. Chuck was a long-standing association member because of his childhood asthma; he called the sculpture “a conceptual symbol of a culture and society moving toward a cleaner environment ... through the elimination of smoking.” In 1996, Chuck received a commission from a private collector in Texas for the Guardian Angel as a family legacy. Later that year, Chuck’s sculpture became part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Garden Club of America Collection, which documents the history of American gardens and landscapes.
In 2000, a private German collector commissioned a 17-foot monumental bronze Peace Fountain for his international corporate headquarters in Germany. During 9/11, Chuck was working on the casting of the Peace Fountain in the foundry, unveiled and dedicated in 2002 as a symbol of international peace. A private collector donated the sculpture, Ascension of Christ, to the Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House in St. Paul, MN. In 2010, Chuck received his last commission to create an eight-foot-high sculpture entitled, Flying Hawk. The Flying Hawk was installed in 2012 on a private estate on St. John’s Island in the Virgin Islands.
Charles Eugene Gagnon peacefully passed away at his beloved Wingtree on April 28, 2012, at the age of 78. Chuck believed, “If I can portray a sense of sharing of joy and inspiration to those viewing my work, I will have accomplished something.”