art, Category_Collecting, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness, Charles Clary, hand cut, paper, sci fi, surreal, surrealism, VHS -

Experimental Artist Charles Clary Re-Animates VHS Box Art by Adding Surreal Depth and Dimension with Hand-Cut Paper and Stacking Techniques! A Must VHSee, Tapeheads!

Tennessee-born artist Charles Clary first caught my analog-addicted eye while I was VHScrolling through the wild world of Instagram. His bodacious video cover re-animations were utterly intriguing in their execution, his work adding a surreal kind of depth and dimension to an array of familiar box fronts from video store shelves of yore. I dug just a tad deeper and found that his creations were made through the art of hand-cut paper, meticulously layered within the video boxes to demonstrate what he defines as a visual concept of innocuous musical infection through viruses and bacteria. Like a number of present day Videovores, as a kid Charles found solace in the almighty VHS, breaking him out of an unwanted everyday reality and inviting him into an exciting world analog escape. He’s since come back to the boxes and channeled his killer creativity to help breathe new life into a number of rewind radical thrift store finds. Read on, my fellow Videovores, and experience the incredible hand-crafted VHS cover re-creations from VHSculptor and beyond Charles Cary…


Charles hard at work in his studio. Gotta watch out for those heady glue fumes, dude!!

Can you tell us a little about your artistic background? Has it always been paper sculpture? How did you get into it? I’ve been into art as long as I can remember and in 2004 I earned a BFA in painting and a minor in Illustration from Middle Tennessee State University and then followed that up in 2008ish with an MFA in painting. My paintings were very flat but dealt with music as a musical virus that would use humans as their carriers to transmit their harmless infestations. Paper seemed perfect because of its fragility and rigidity much like that of a virus or bacteria.


One of my personal favorites from Charles. The color coordination and subtlety of the alteration just rules, mang.

The process of hand-cut paper sculpture seems arduous to say the least. Can you describe the process, the technique of what you do? It is quite the process (CHECK IT OUT HERE). Everything is hand-cut using a Fiskars ergonomic craft knife, 1000’s of #11 blades and Bazzill basics scrapbook paper, a paper that has a great thickness, texture and archival quality. In the beginning, the work resembled Petri dishes that had lost containment of their cultures. These cultures would grow and creep across the exhibition space and resembled topographical maps gene spliced with electron microscope images. For the recent VHS work, it starts with the case. The case was the first thing I was drawn to as a child going into a video store. I then map out the opening in graphite, cut the opening and then choose the color scheme. This scheme almost always has something to do with the content of the movie itself. I start from the front and work myself down 15 layers allowing each previous layer to inform the next and then I put it together. It just so happens that 15 layers of paper and 14 layers of matte board match the exact depth of a VHS tape.


Some more totally awesome examples of Clary's hand-cut paper alterations to VHS. That SILENCE OF THE LAMBS alteration is especially VHSpooky, mang.

What made you want to incorporate your work into VHS covers? Do you have any special affinity for the format? I had a really rough childhood. My father was a severe alcoholic and my mother was a functioning one. I used to use movies as escapisms from my everyday. I got lost in the 90 minute fiction of horror films and sci-fi. It was time that I didn’t have to be in my day-to-day existence. In 2013 I lost both of my parents to smoking related cancers 2 weeks apart from one another. It was an extremely difficult time for me and I started to recall my childhood and the things that I escaped to deal with my trauma and movies kept coming to the forefront. They brought me joy and a sense of nostalgia for the childhood, or rather the childhood I had always wanted. Luckily VHS tapes were and are still around so I started gathering up as many as I could. There’s just something about the grittiness and sound and process of watching a great horror or sci-fi film from the 80s. It started with about 10 just to see if it worked. It has, and within 7 months grown to 200+ with another 1200ish or more to go as well as branching out into newer films through posters.


You know Toxie couldn't get away without the Clary treatment! Too trippy, dude.

Here's a question I'm sure all Videovores wanna know: What happens to the tapes after you work the covers into pieces of art? I actually still have every VHS tape from each box. They were a pain in the ass to move but I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them as they will be a part of the video store installation I am planning when it’s all said and done.


Two more of my personal favorites from Charles. These are so dope, man.

Yo, that video store installation sounds dope, man. Can’t wait to see that. You've also worked your paper sculpture into other media and surfaces. What are your favorite items to work with? Most challenging? Anything with paper gets me going but the movie posters that I’m working with have been quite enjoyable, as I can explore newer films that didn’t have a VHS release. The most challenging is another body of work that explores wallpaper and drywall. I remember having quite the temper as a young child. Having to deal with bullying and a dysfunctional family life reeked havoc on me as a young child and I often lashed out at the wall. Know I view this as a process of healing. After creating a pristine drywall box and then layering it with nostalgic kitschy wallpaper I then take a hammer to it and create violent opening ripping the wallpaper and destroying the edges. I then fill that opening with my paper sculptures =healing the wound. It’s a symbol of how we all carry around our own beautiful scars.


An example of Charles Clary's work as mentioned above. Be sure to groove on over to his site for a look at all of his creations, dude.

Are your pieces for sale? If so, where can we get a hold of them and what is the price range to own one of these slabs of VHSurrealism? They are indeed. There will be 4 Wes Anderson pieces in the Bad Dads exhibition at Joseph Gross Gallery in NYC August 7th through the 9th, you can always contact me through Instagram and the VHS go anywhere from $100 to $200.


Some classic horror pieces from Charles Clary. Dig those Krueger blade cuts (and color match), mang.

What's next, Charles? Where can we keep up with you? You can keep up with me through my website or through my Instagram page @charlesclary. I’m always posting new stuff on a daily basis and am open to commissions. I’m currently working on recreating the illusion of a VHS rental store complete with TVs, posters, and rental coins.


Some non-horror entries in Clary's collection of VHS creations. Just when you think SIDEKICKS couldn't get any cooler...

Oh, man, I gotta gets me some of those rental coins. Anything else you wanna shout out to all the Tapeheads here in Lunchmeat Land? I revere the movies I use and it is not my intent to destroy these gems. I find most of my films at thrift stores and flea markets. I want to bring them back to life and share my love of these films with my audience and give them a new existence!

You know we can dig it, Charles! The way Clary has conjured his acute sense of nostalgia and pushed these VHS covers to an entirely different level with his artistry is totally inspiring, Tapeheads. His paper projects continue to impress people in galleries from NY to France, and we just can’t wait to see his bodacious VHS creations all lined up in a row for his very own rental store show sure to be abounding with items innocuously infected by his masterful paper creations. Be sure to stay tuned to his Official Website and Instagram to keep your eyes on all of Charles’ radical work. We know we will be.

Groove and Groove and Celebrate the Analog Escape.

Josh Schafer

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