Briefly describe the work you do.
I use paper to create a world of fiction that challenges the viewer to suspend disbelief and venture into my fabricated reality. By layering paper I am able to build intriguing land formations that mimic viral colonies and concentric sound waves. These strange landmasses contaminate and infect the surfaces they inhabit transforming the space into something suitable for their gestation. Towers of paper and color jut into the viewer’s space inviting playful interactions between the viewer and this conceived world. These constructions question the notion of microbial outbreaks and their similarity to the visual representation of sound waves, transforming them into something more playful and inviting. Recently my work has transitioned into a reflection/reaction to my mother’s diagnosis and death due to small cell carcinoma of the lungs, and my fathers passing due to throat and esophageal cancer.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in a small town in East Tennessee and had a rough childhood with bullying and a tumultuous home life. I escaped into art to get release from those troubling times, and low and behold I got kinda good at it. I then found music as a secondary release and began to combine the two into expressive playful paintings. When I got into college I was a double major and still dealt with the ramifications of my upbringing but still relied on music and art to deal with the pain. After awhile, I realized that each took so much time to master that I had to choose one over the other and art won out.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Your description sums up my practice to a T. I also teach at the college level, and what I have found is if I’m not doing everything I can to be as successful and productive as I can be what kind of advocate am I for my students. I try to fit in atleast 2-4hrs a day in the studio during the week even working in my office at school during student visits and then work about 12hrs a day during the weekends. It ends up being a lot of alone time but well worth it in the end.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I become a storyteller a weaver of fiction allowing my viewers the solace of an escape from the everyday. I also advocate against the preconceived stereotype of the American artist. Being an artist is hard work. Math, communication skills, business sensibilities, organization, problem solving all play a major role in my profession.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
Anytime of the day is a good time to make art, but I primarily work at night or whenever I can fit in some time.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has been pretty consistent over the last 5 yrs but it has tightened up and gotten more intricate in the last 2. I have migrated over to smaller denser panels really emphasizing the microbial/petri dish imagery of viruses and bacteria. My cuts have become finer and thinner reinforcing the delicate yet rigid qualities of paper.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
There are many that have influenced me. My mother for one was always supportive of my drive to be an artist. I enjoy the writing of James Elkins, David Batchelor, Boris Groys and artists Matthew Ritchie, Sara Sze, Jane South, Bovey Lee, Brian Deitmer, Olek, Swoon, Keil Johnson and many others. My fiancé Katie Stringer is the love of my life and is just beyond supportive of all that I do and helps keep pushing me forward even when I struggle from time to time. Joe Amhrein from Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn gave me a chance as an intern and apprentice and really keeping my drive going.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I’m not sure I can imagine doing anything else it’s so ingrained in my psyche but I guess if I had to pick one it’d be a microbiologist b/c I’m fascinated with this microscopic realm and I could have the added bonus of helping society and individuals.
Charles Clary was born in 1980 in Morristown, Tennessee. He received his BFA in painting with honors from Middle Tennessee State University and his MFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He has had solo exhibitions at Nancy Margolis Gallery in NYC, The Rymer Gallery in Nashville, TN, and Galerie EVOLUTION-Pierre Cardin in Paris, France. He completed a three week residency in Lacoste France, completed a painting assistantship with Joe Amrhein of Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn NYC, and had work acquired by fashion designer Pierre Cardin and gallery owner James Cohan. As of 2013 Charles had been featured in numerous print and Internet interviews including, WIRED magazine (US and UK), Hifructose.com, Beautifuldecay.com and Bluecanavs Magazine. He has also been featured in publications including “Papercraft 2” published by Gestalten and “PUSH Paper” published by Lark Books, “Paper Art” published by ArtPower International Publishing, and “Paper Works” published by Sandu Publishing as well as 500 Paper Objects published by Lark Books. Charles has lectured nationally and exhibited regionally, nationally, and internationally in numerous solo and group shows, is represented by The Rymer Galery in Nashville, TN, the Diana Lowenstein Gallery in Miami, FL, the Kenise Barnes Gallery in Larchmont, NY and currently lives and works in Murfreesboro, TN.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.