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ArtFields Artist Spotlight: Charles Clary

April 23, 2018 GMT

LAKE CITY, S.C. – “I chose to enter ArtFields this year because it’s a wonderful opportunity to connect the community with the world of fine art. It’s also a wonderful competition to feature the scope and breath of so many talented Southern artists,” Charles Clary, assistant professor and Foundations Coordinator, Visual Arts at Coastal Carolina University.

Clary knows firsthand the impact ArtFields has on individual artists. Two years ago he entered ArtFields and won the grand prize.

“It’s an honor to compete again,” he said recently. The art that won the top award -- shocking him, he said at the time -- was called “Be Kind Rewind.” The nostalgia piece was made from VHS boxes that he decorated with hand-cut paper.

Clary and his wife moved to Conway because they each received tenure track teaching positions, he said. His wife teaches history and public history at the university.

In his artist statement about this year’s piece, Clary said that frames are designated for joyful occasions, such as births, weddings, graduations. “… they rarely capture the most trying of times. These moments, our shared beautiful scars, are the ones that define our most true self…”

Clary earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from Middle Tennessee State University and his Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

He has exhibited in New York and San Francisco, as well as in museum shows at Mesa Contemporary Art Museum, Gadsten Museum of Art, and Cornell Museum of Art. He has exhibited regionally, nationally, and internationally in solo and group shows, he said.

“I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, but my primary medium is hand-cut paper compositions,” he said.

“My process has become deeply personal since the loss of both my parents to smoking-related cancers in February of 2013,” Clary said. “Losing them made me question my mortality.”

With that as a backdrop, Clary said he delved into the thoughts and processes of Memento Mori, the Latin phrase for “remember you must die,” which is also the ancient practice of reflecting on one’s mortality, and the transient nature of living.

“Through this I began to reflect on my traumatic childhood and create a work that celebrated not the joyful memories, but those memories that ultimately shaped who I’ve become and the difficulties I’ve had to deal with,” Clary said.

These traumas, he said, “are reflected in my paper cuts and are encapsulated in reclaimed vintage picture plans.” He adds that he hopes the viewer is able to realize that it is not trauma that defines us, “but how we overcome it.”

Clary admits to being a “bit of a workaholic,” adding that he has created close to 1,000 of the frame works. When he is not creating, Clary said he and his wife enjoy traveling and hiking, and that anytime they can get away, they do.

“I’m a passionate college professor that cares deeply about my students’ success, and I am a devoted husband to a wonderfully talented and amazing lady, Dr. Katie Clary.”