Distinguished by many names, he calls himself an artist — of words, music and paintings. To some, he's CONFUSOR, the cartoon-y artist of vibrant, acrylic paintings, and to others he's ChouChou Gypsy Wagner, the eclectic singer and performer.
Originally from Kalamazoo, Mich., C. Charles Bley — his preferred pen name in poetry — dresses casually in an orange, worn-out sweater and cargo shorts. The man of many names refuses to be called by his first name, insisting that the various personalities distinguish his arts from one another, and himself from the rest. Standing with naked feet, an Egyptian necklace around his neck, he serves warm tea, heated by candles in "futuristic, chambered" cups on the quaint porch of his 1898 residence near Old Colorado City.
The 30-year-old has spent his life meandering from state to state, dragging his roots behind him, he says. Bley followed a beer-rep friend of his out here last year to write a nonfiction story about brewing. He returned permanently in January to pursue his arts full-time.
His artist personality, CONFUSOR, creates acrylic paintings that mainly depict animals or an aquamarine, bald guy shown in various shapes and forms, he says.
"It's not always clear what's going on in my paintings. If an animal comes out looking like I want it to look, it's luck," he adds. "The colors are what works for people, even if it makes no sense what they're looking at.
"It's all about what tickles you. That's the point. Once I'm done with it, you can't take that away from me," CONFUSOR continues. "It's about getting it on someone else's wall, but there's going to be some stragglers who aren't quite sure what to make of my paintings."
Local artist Sara Vaas, who's heading up the fifth annual Front Range BBQ Spring Art Show, isn't one of them. She immediately contacted CONFUSOR to create the poster for the event, which will feature him and 17 other artists, and benefit Pikes Peak United Way. The result: a wonderfully strange "Zebulon Pork" pig staring contemplatively, beer in hoof.
So there's CONFUSOR. ChouChou Gypsy Wagner you'll find onstage at Urban Steam Coffee Bar or the Wild Goose Meeting House. ChouChou is a character in his song, "Uzicafé" (also the title of his website), about an imaginary café in Luxembourg in a future dystopian society.
On top of his lyrics, ChouChou uses an old-style drum machine programmed with his own beats, fusing styles from Flamenco to classical. "It all comes together in a deejay-style, where I'm deejaying my own work but I'm not, because I'm actually performing it."
Sipping down the last few drops of his tea, the man of many names reflects on his unique life. "The last couple of years I've realized I'm just an artist. That's all I know how to do," he says. "Not to do what anyone expects. And that's the gamble. That's my curse."