popcorn, art, pop art, plano artist, harry kalenberg
All photography by Cori Baker

Plano artist and inventor, Harry Kalenberg sees things differently. When he sees a piece of popcorn he sees Mickey Mouse, Elvis, Snoopy and even Dallas Cowboys star Roger Staubach. One piece of puffed corn is the face of Obama, the other is Donald Trump. A simple piece of bread is a Porsche; the wheels are quarters.

Plano artist, Harry Kalenberg, uses sharpies to turn popcorn into pieces of art

It’s a talent he discovered lazing on his couch on an ordinary movie night. As he sat eating popcorn with his wife he found a piece that looked just like a gorilla—or so he thought. Her reaction was less than enthusiastic. “She said, ‘Leave me alone and stop playing with your food.’”

Undeterred, Harry grabbed a pen and, lo and behold, by the time he’d finished his wife had changed her tune. “She told me, ‘That is a gorilla!’”

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That was nearly 30 years ago. Since then Harry’s hobby has led him into some unique opportunities, including having his art showcased at a number of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums worldwide. At the museum in London they have the King standing next to Big Ben.

Sadly for the royalty of the edible art world, Harry’s work was just too good to resist—believe it or not, a number of the original commissioned pieces were eaten by ants.

Fortunately, however, each piece only takes Harry about 10-15 minutes to create, so he was able to send Ripley’s replacements, this time encased in acrylic—a talent which just happens to be his day job.

Harry’s company, Clear Expressions, specializes in creating anything and everything out of lightweight acrylic—corporate awards, furniture and display boxes such as those he now uses to keep his Pop Art safe from predators.   

Intrigued to see the man in action, I stopped our interview for an artistic interlude. Plucking a piece of Cosmos Creations (a type of puffed corn available at Central Market) I asked Harry, “What do you see?”

“You picked it. This is your piece of popcorn?” He replied. I felt like I was part of a magic trick.

And magic it was! In less than a minute and using nothing more than three sharpies—a woman in a purple hat, wearing a green shirt and bright red lipstick—came to life before my eyes.  

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Harry Kalenberg, artist—and inventor

When he’s not playing with his food, Harry is also an inventor. His most recent invention is DriipGuard, a simple piece of colored plastic which fits onto soap dispensers and stops drips making a mess all over the counter. His inspiration? His wife. “She’s always complaining about something and I find the solution.”

Other inventions include Gray Door, a residential mailbox locking system which goes inside your mailbox and keeps your mail under lock and key. “My mother had her mail stolen, and as a result, her identity was also stolen… I thought to myself I bet I can find a solution to that problem.”

And just like all inventors, Harry continues to experiment—with new creations and with food. Most recently he’s been painting rice cakes and discarded pieces of plastic, as well as experimenting with Doritos, coffee stains and Cheetos. He’s even flirting with the idea of animation—perhaps Harry and his popcorn art will be the next YouTube sensation!

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Whether it’s popcorn, pieces of bread or his next tasty treat, one thing’s for sure—Harry Kalenberg will never be a starving artist.

If you’d like to see his work (including a reincarnation of Elvis), Harry invites you to visit him at his office in Plano. Clear Expressions is located at 1111 Summit Ave # 3.

Rebecca Silvestri

Rebecca Silvestri is the vice president of Sales & Marketing. She is also the wife of Philip Silvestri, publisher of Local Profile. In a previous life, Rebecca was a math teacher in London and the...