By Margaret Magnus
Was it coincidence, prescience or Meher Baba’s Divine timing?
Just days before the December 4, 2017 Thomas Fire struck Meher Mount, well-known Meher Baba artist Charles Mills approached Meher Mount about doing a painting that would represent Meher Baba’s 1956 visit to Meher Mount.
“I didn’t know if a painting was needed,” Mills said later, “I just made myself available.”
In discussions with Board President Sam Ervin, they talked about a painting that would represent the energy of Meher Baba’s visit as captured in the 55-minute film Meher Baba, The Awakener made in 1994 by Tim Thelan. The footage of Meher Baba at Meher Mount starts at 43:22 minutes.
The original and complete footage of Meher Baba at Meher Mount, starting at 50:23 minutes, is included Meher Baba in the USA, 1956 produced by Sufism Reoriented.
CAPTURING MEHER BABA’S ENERGY ON CANVAS
The concept was to portray the swift, long strides of Meher Baba walking across the meadow from Baba’s Tree with His followers hurrying to keep up with Him. That image seemed to be both an actual and metaphorical representation of being with the God-Man.
Marguerite Poley, who was at Meher Mount with Meher Baba on August 2, 1956, described that walk in an interview that was part of the Meher Baba, The Awakener film.
In early 2018, Charlie started work on the painting. He obtained permission to use the image from Sufism Reoriented, blew it up on his computer, stretched the 4- x 5-foot canvas, and began to paint.
On August 10, 2018, he and his wife Linda Mills were at Meher Mount to hang the newly finished work of art.
“I CAN’T IMAGINE A BETTER PAINTING AT MEHER MOUNT”
In Meher Baba’s impeccable timing, Charlie and the painting arrived after all the fire damage repairs, additional upgrades, and refurbishment to the Visitor Center had been completed. The painting seemed to be the icing on the cake (or the cherry on top) for fire recovery and renewal.
The painting was hung just days after a fresh coat of paint had been applied to the entire interior. It was as if the Visitor Center had been specifically prepared to receive this loving gift from the artist.
“I can’t imagine a better painting for Meher Mount,” remarked Board Director Jim Whitson after seeing Mills’ painting.
“How nice that I could contribute that painting and be part of the effort after the fire,” Charlie said afterward.
ENTHUSIASM FOR THE PAINTING
In seeing the finished painting, Sam Ervin commented,
Both Marta Flores and Kristina Somma, who were at Meher Mount on August 10th, noted that when walking to Baba’s Tree they would imagine the painting and see themselves walking alongside Meher Baba.
Other reactions were equally enthusiastic: “How nice! He is a great painter!” “Lovely.” “How exciting! I just love seeing pictures of Baba at Meher Mount!”
Board Director Richard Mannis sent this email, “We like it. Lovely! Lucky dog!”
Speaking of the dog, Kali, co-founder and lifetime caretaker Agnes Baron said Kali was an extremely smart dog and that she followed Meher Baba around the whole day. When Meher Baba was getting in the car to leave on August 2nd, He patted Kali on the head and said she would be a human in her next life.
Charlie's first works of art were in pencil and on paper he spread on the floor. Drawings of guns, planes and tanks from World War II were his topic of the day. Later in school, he broadened his skills, and he studied art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, to study commercial art.
Mills spent 12 years doing graphic design which included brochure layouts, logo design, technical drawings, mural painting and metal sculpture. Most of his work was in California where he met his wife, Linda.
They decided to find some land of their own, so they moved to West Virginia, bought 25 acres and built a cabin. Here Charlie’s commercial art career converted to sign painting.
Soon after arriving in West Virginia, they were awakened to Meher Baba. Charlie then began doing paintings of the Avatar. Now numbering over 250, these portraits are familiar to many followers of Meher Baba all over the world.
One of his paintings is at the entry to the dining hall of the Meher Pilgrim Retreat in Meherabad, India. Meherabad is where Meher Baba’s Tomb Shrine is located.