These Mesmerizing Paper Sculptures are Like Looking Through a Microscope

American artist Charles Clary creates sculptures that push boundaries and challenge perceptions of one of society’s most commonplace materials, paper. His work is reminiscent of scientific microscope slides, and invite audiences to imagine new worlds and fabricated realities between its many layers. We caught up with Charles to have an insight into his unique practice.

How did you find your way to this style of work?

It was out of necessity. I wish it were more romantic than that. I had a residency at the Elizabeth Foundation in NYC when I was in grad school and I didn’t have much access to a wood shop. I had to find another way to make my paintings in tangible objects. When I returned to the studio I happened upon a wonderful paper shop and I was hooked.


Describe your artistic journey to this point.

It’s been a long road. As a kid I was obsessed with science and microbes and though they looked so beautiful under an electron microscope. I found music in highschool but realized that music and art took so much time to master so eventually art won out.

From there it’s been non-stop work: making new pieces, evolving, submitting anything and everything. I’ve been lucky in that things have really started to take off.

How long does it take you, typically, to complete one of these works?

Anywhere between one hour and 6 months. Most of my works can be completed in one day but I have had projects that have taken 6 months of solid work.


Have you ever collaborated with another artist?

I’ve actually collaborated with a few friends and recently I’ve done a set of collaborative pieces with a past student of mine, Allison Ford. She’s done some really fun explorations with screen printing. I created opening in panels and she screen printed imagery on the front, and then I add my paper contracts.

Who inspires you?

I draw inspiration from numerous artists: Hari and Deepti, Bovey Lee, Guy Laramee, Brian Dettmer, Mia Pearlman, Yulia Broskaya, Olek, Baptiste Dedombourg, Craig Drennen, Steve Locke, Joe Amrhein, and so many others.


What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Always have enough work for two solo exhibtions, that way you are always prepared at the drop of a hat if someone contacts you with an invitation to show. Also, you make your own luck. I usually now have enough work for 3 solo exhibitions at any given time.

What are some of the challenges that arise when constructing and displaying your work?

Usually it’s color decisions and the delicateness of the distressed drywall. My other challenge, and I think most artists would agree with this, is shipping. These are delicate pieces and it becomes a Tetris-style puzzle to make sure each piece arrives safely to the venue.


Is there a feeling or message you hope to communicate with your audience?

I always want to convey a feeling of wonder and playfulness. With the newer drywall pieces I want to convey an idea of healing, as each piece deals with my difficult and painful childhood. I want the viewer to walk away knowing that beauty can come from destruction.


To see more of Charles Clary’s work, visit his website :




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