Arts feature: Charles Wince's home is an enchanting work of art

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Charles Wince has been working as a self-taught artist in Columbus since the early ’80s — perhaps best known for creating masterfully complex, often very large paintings — but it’s his house on Second Avenue in Harrison West that’s been his most prolific work. Fondly titled “Wince’s World,” the three-bedroom home has been completely overhauled and reconditioned since Wince bought the property in 1988 for $40,000.

“At the time it was fair market value. I phoned my mother, and told her I bought a house. She lives in Licking County where the prices are much lower. She said, ‘How much did you pay for it?’ I said, ‘$40,000.’ And she said, ‘Oh Charles’ — [like] her son’s been taken again,” Wince said with a laugh, referring to his mother’s concern about purchasing a house in what was a blight-stricken neighborhood at the time. “But I couldn’t have picked a better neighborhood. I wish I could take credit for it, but I wasn’t planning ahead.”

Since Wince purchased the house, the Section 8 housing in Harrison West has been transformed into townhomes and Victorian houses, both in high demand. One could point out parallels among the transformation of the neighborhood and “Wince’s World,” but that wouldn’t do justice to the weird and wonderful house of art Wince created.

When he purchased the home, there were a number of cosmetic and structural projects that needed to be completed, and Wince immediately thought of making those improvements with original art. Wince wanted to incorporate some of his personal imagination — along with those of his artist friends — but it also made renovation more financially feasible.

“I’ve often thought it was a good thing I didn’t buy a better house. If it had oak trim or something, I wouldn’t have wanted to paint on it and go nuts. But as it was … I just felt free to do whatever I wanted to,” Wince said during an interview at his home.

Wince first began by rounding out the corners in his dining and downstairs living room, citing how he’d read, “The power of the circle tended to unite people, whereas rectangles gave barriers.” Wince used handmade modular book shelves in the living room, and spectacularly ornate shelves in the dining room, created with friend and artist/carpenter Aaron Schroeder, to achieve this.

From there he moved on to the floors in the kitchen — vibrantly colorful rectangles with templates Wince created of a broken dish, spilled milk and rat in a trap designed to “reference the roots of the house” when Wince bought it — and dining room, one of the most magnificent rooms in the residence.

For the dining room floor, Wince cut out myriad shapes (hearts, oddly shaped rectangles, squares and triangles) and began laying them out organically. Along with the help of an experienced grout man — one of the themes for “Wince’s World” is friends collaborating to create many of the mixed-media elements on display — the floor was transformed into a sweeping, swirling black-and-white design.

Once that was completed, Wince again joined with Schroeder to craft a one-of-a-kind table made completely of reclaimed materials. It’s a stunning piece of furniture that blends with all the elements of the room.

While the dining room is a clean, yet densely multifaceted work of art, the pièce de résistance is the artist’s bedroom, which contains Wince’s “Mother Russia Meltdown” — a floor-to-ceiling painting he’s worked on for over 20 years.

“‘Mother Russia Meltdown’ — my greatest hit. I started this in 1994. It has to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. I grew up during the Cold War, fearing the Soviets would attack and atom bombs would be dropped. I was actually in a class that had the ‘Duck and Cover.’ That was actually played in schools,” he said.

The painting is filled with a cornucopia of darkly comedic and sarcastic — even savage at times — images blending and swirling toward the baby doll with Joseph Stalin-headed snakes shooting out like Medusa’s locks at the center. (The doll’s head is also his headboard, and a handful of other pieces and furniture pay homage to “Mother Russia Meltdown.”)

Viewers will see a number of references to the undesirable elements of both communism and capitalism, including: Uncle Sam Jesus, Jackie Kennedy surrounded by pills while wearing her signature pill box hat, Superman with adult diapers and so much more that will boggle the mind and delight the senses.

Nearly every room in Wince’s house has been metamorphosed — not to mention his serene garden complete with a spiral walkway made from bricks he found while landscaping the backyard — and one could spend hours in each and probably never fully see the enchantment on display on every wall, floor, door, staircase, etc.

To see more of Wince’s art and house, visit winceart.com.

Photos by Meghan Ralston