She’s taking art analog and dropping some serious VHS knowledge in the process.
I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing like a solid movie streaming session, but when it comes to pure artistry, Netflix has nothin’ on VHS. Hear me out—remember that montage of romantic movie clips set to “Take My Breath Away” that played before Clueless? Iconic. And all of those original tape covers? Unparalleled. Truth be told, nothing beats a good throwback, so when I discovered VHS Girl’s Instagram, I just about lost it. The self-described tapehead paints old-school VHS covers on tape-sized woodblocks, adding in her own hilarious taglines and selling them to her growing following of fellow analog buffs. And, best of all, she knows her shit, talking up everyone from Dick Miller to Stephen King in captions that warrant IRL LOLs (for those wondering if she’s old enough to actually remember VHS, you can relax—she’s 30). I caught up with VHS Girl to talk weird fan requests, Danny Boyle puns, and paying rent with your art.
First things first. How did you get into painting VHS tape covers, and how long have you been doing it?
I started my VHS Girl Instagram because I was tired of looking at pictures of food and selfies all day. I wanted to find people who loved VHS, or even just movies in general—thus, my alter ego—and talk to them. After a while, I found my first “VHSoulmate” online (corny, I know). We would make doodle renditions of tape boxes so we could make our own taglines and laugh at each other. Soon I hit up my favorite local artist and asked him (@brettdouglashunter on IG) if he could make me some VHS-sized tape paintings on wood. He did them, but then encouraged me to just do it myself and gave me some brushes and paint! Soon I was doing it myself and posting them online for people to buy for very, very cheap. That was around two years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since! Also, shoutout to my family. My dad Richard Winchester and my grandpa Vernon Miller both find and cut scrap wood into VHS blocks for me.
What do you love most about VHS?
The thing I love most about VHS is the artistry behind each box. Before the internet, all I had to go on to know if a movie was good or not was the box. I remember walking the aisles of my local video stores since I was seven, trying to judge a movie by its cover. Unfortunately, some of the most horrible movies have the best artwork. It’s debatable whether Street Trash is good or bad, but oh does it have a wonderful cover.
Where do you find your tapes?
I try not to buy anything on eBay because part of the fun of collecting tapes is the thrill of the hunt. Goodwill, Salvation Army, random antique stores, flea markets, garage sales—you name it, I’ve looked there for VHS. Trading with other tape hoarders is choice too!
Do you watch every tape that you paint?
I try to watch every tape I paint, at least just to find a funny original tagline for it, but there have been a few that I haven’t. I don’t think I’ve ever watched Drowning Mona. That’s the only one I can think of though.
After a little Instagram stalking, I noticed that you’ve created a close-knit community with your followers, striking up and taking part in amazing conversations about everything from punny Danny Boyle titles to the best and worst Twin Peaks characters. Why do you think people are so drawn to this world that you’ve made?
A ton of my followers are just fellow tapeheads! We’re all nerds! Back when I started my page, there were only a few hundred tapeheads, and we all followed each other. I bet all of our real life friends thought we were strange, always posting tapes we found on the hunt. I think nerds need an outlet, ESPECIALLY for Danny Boyle puns, and I hope they know the comments section of my IG is where it’s at!
You come up with your own taglines for all the covers you paint, and they’re hilarious. How do you think of them, and which one has been your favorite so far?
Mainly I just think, what would have immediately drawn my 7-year-old self to this painting? “How Two Boys Worlds Apart Ripped Off ET and Went to McDonalds” is probably my favorite. Mac and Me FOREVER!
You were invited to Art Basel last year (!!!). How was that?
Art Basel was awesome! My work was in the same building as Wayne White’s, my folk art hero! I still can’t believe I was in the same building as so much rad art.
How many VHS tapes do you own at this point?
I think I only own 700 or so. A lot of collectors I know used to have old video stores or are trying to recreate their old childhood video store. Or they have a basement full of molding tapes. I would have more, but I purge a lot. Sometimes I just buy them because they’re so cheap, and you might as well buy them to watch once if you’ve never seen them before. Soon I’m moving in with my longtime tapehead boyfriend, though, so if you ask me again in a few months, it’ll probably be around 2000.
What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever received?
No VHS painting is a weird request, but I did have someone try and bribe me for the phone number of a famous person who follows me on IG. I told him, “Sorry, dude, I don’t know that person in real life,” but he didn’t believe me and offered me $50 for the number. Good to know what a good phone number bribe costs, but that’s not how I roll!
I read that you make a living off making art. Was this ever a goal for you or did you sort of fall into it?
I’m not quite there yet (girl needs dental!), and it definitely wasn’t the goal in the beginning. I just wanted to make stuff for people who love movies as much as I do, and I think that’s still the real goal. But, of course, I would love to paint all day and watch VHS for the rest of my life. I can dream!
What are your thoughts on DVDs? Netflix?
I like Hulu and Netflix, but 90% of the movies I dig up from thrift stores I have never seen on any streaming sites. A ton of VHS were never released on DVD, either. Sure, everyone likes the special features and the higher quality, but, oh, the nostalgia of analog….
What’s next for you?
Hopefully I can keeping getting into more art galleries and spread the love of VHS to more states! I’ve also been messing around with screenprinting some stuff myself. Most of my money (after I’m done paying rent) goes back into more art supplies and bigger canvases, so the sky’s the limit, really! Until then, I’ll be here, taking requests for any tapes you want. You can also check out my installation at Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans, where they’ve set up mock VHS rental shelves with my paintings on display.
Want more? Check out VHS Girl’s Instagram here.