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Mother Russia Meltdown

Karen Simonian
The Other Paper
Oct. 31 1996

Charles Wince has a lot on his mind. His latest painting, the large scale Mother Russia Meltdown which he's been working on for two years and which will be unveiled at Acme Art Co. this weekend - touches on communism, capitalism, pop culture, TV, religion, Disney, pride, vanity and his own personal demons.
"I do get carried away," Wince says.
The collapse of the Russian empire was a "jumping-off point" for the rest of the painting, he says.
But it's not all heavy. In art, Wince says, "Humor is as important as anger and angst and all that stuff. Some of it is just painful navel-gazing type of introspection. Part of it is parody of navel-gazing obsessive behavior."
There's also lots of eye candy. Some of the objects, such as pizza slices, are in there because they're "entertaining to look at."
His work can be surreal and cartoonish; he says he read underground comics (the likes of R. Crumb) growing up. The pop elements in his paintings are "a reflection of my environment."
A Columbus native, Wince , 41, has been a presence in the Columbus art world for years. ("My resume reads "North High, North High, North High.") He's had some recognition and shows outside the state; the current issue of Art? Alternatives includes a four-page piece on Wince. His works have titles like Scars in Bars, Flight of the Christ Brothers (Wilbur and Jesus) and The Rape, Pillage and Subsequent Yard Sale of Primitive Society, (about Operation Desert Storm).
A self-taught artist, Wince falls in to the outsider artist camp. His work is mostly representational, although he does do some "abstract depression" (his term). He talks openly about his personal problems in the past with depression; he's been on prescription drugs for it. "It depends on which level of depression I was in - whether I was painting like a maniac, or whether I'd lose all interest."
Wince, a part-time mailman, lives in a house that's filled with his artwork (including furniture that he's designed) and the work of other local artists, including Paul Volker and Jim Beoddy. With its angular, surreal furniture, his bedroom is a cross between "Dr. Caligari and Pee Wee's Playhouse," he says.
His bathroom walls and ceiling are like a big scrapbook, filled with tidbits from the Columbus music and art scene, and from Wince's life.
Wince was in a gasoline explosion when he was 11; fire in some form shows up in much of his work. "It's only in the past year that I've realized that in a lot of my paintings, it's like I'm trying to harness the explosion. Everything's flying apart."
Maybe it's like the cave paintings or something, when primitive man would draw animals that they feared, or were trying to capture. Maybe it's just a primitive urge to harness the explosion."
The 6 by 12 foot Mother Russia Meltdown- his last big painting for awhile- has a little of that explosion feel to it.
"I first got the idea when the Soviet Union was breaking up, and everyone was dancing in the streets and everything," he says, "but I thought, there's going to be big problems here."





"Wince's most ambitious painting, in process since 1994, is the 12-foot-by-six-foot "Mother Russia Meltdown." When it's not being toted around to galleries, the huge oil on canvas is housed in Wince's bedroom ("It's the only room large enough to hold it"), where the temptation to fine-tune its tangled web of images is ever present. The work is a fantasia on the theme of the former Soviet Union's collapse and an unmistakable, no-holds-barred masterpiece. Designed something like folding money from another planet, it blends hundreds of images in a punkadelic Sistine vision of imploding one-world culture, hovering around a central image of a baby with Medusa hair."
--Doug Utter, CLEVELAND SCENE, 1-20-2010