Clark is an enigma. I met him soon after I arrived in New York through an artist friend. They were part of an intense alternative art scene that was connected to the San Francisco Art Institute. The attitudes of these people were vastly different from what I found here and I liked them.
Clark is Native American. He comes from Texas and is of Cherokee and Powhatan descent. His people lived in Tennessee until they were moved from their land by the US government. That was in the early 1800’s. The people moved throughout the South. About a hundred years later, Clark was born in Austin, TX. Then the family moved to Hawaii, then back to Texas where Clark first saw art at the Menil Foundation in Houston. Even though he was just a little boy, he knew from then one that he wanted to be an artist. He and his little friend walked up and down the street trying to sell their pictures door to door ? I don’t know where they got that idea. The family then moved to Alexandria, VA. When Clark was in high school his classmate was David Lynch. I tell this because they both are brilliantly acculturated while at the same time being weird and uncanny in their take on life and their representations of it. The American surrealism of David Lynch in movies like Wild at Heart and Lost Highway relates to Clark’s constant depiction of Mr. Peanut, giving him iconic status. Other such images are a stylized dollar bill graphic of George Washington or five dollar Abe Lincoln, except in color. Stylized “Indian” images also appear, as do other generic American icons. With insane focus, repeating, duplicating and re-doing and re-doing these pictures again and again with an outsider artist’s obsessive relentlessness. But he is not “outside.” Clark is everywhere. He founded and managed for fourteen years the Museum of Contemporary Art in Washington, DC where he and his cohorts exhibit the work of established and newly discovered artists. He is represented in many collections, including the National Gallery and The Dorothy and Herb Vogel Collection. He travels all the time, often in South America and all over the United States, exhibiting his paintings and constantly working wherever he is.
But back to his painting: His iconic imagery combines to convey a rich take on reality, the state of the world, our country, and his own unusual psychic identity and nature. The familiar images of JFK, phallic Planter’s Peanut man, big dimply oranges, Abe Lincoln, Chinese Characters, ears of corn, buffalo, maps, generic icons that are poetic stand-ins for much more than is seen, simile, metonymy, synecdoche. Yes. His pictures are poems. His travels, his social enterprises and his generous relationships with people are all a part of his work. He is an endless storyteller, stories which I am determined to capture in sound or print, someday. This is just the beginning. Clark’s show here at CUE Art Foundation 2009 is just the beginning.