For Waco artist Ty Nathan Clark, there’s more to memory than meets the eye, but what meets the eye can stimulate the deep, irrational and random way memory often works.
Memory runs through his solo show “Lost, Recovered and Remaining” that opens Friday at downtown Waco’s Cultivate 7twelve gallery and runs through July 31.
The exhibit, the first Waco show for Clark since moving here from Austin two years ago, encompasses 22 paintings and eight sculptures, a mix of abstract and found-object art that started from the artist’s experiences, but open to wherever viewers’ memories lead them.
“I’m hoping for an audience to find something about themselves — remembering something they’ve forgotten, a moment from childhood that’s special,” he said.
Clark, 44, and his wife Mande moved to Waco about two years ago from Austin, where they had lived for eight years. Clark’s Waco art buyers led them to consider a move that brought them closer to family and a more affordable, less harried room for life and art, he said.
For the native Californian, the show contains objects and visual references linked to his past. An old novel reminds him of an arts-rich family life, time with a religious grandfather and time with his uncle, California ceramicist Conway Pierson. Swaths of gold painted over some canvases, adding a “touch of the ethereal,” recall the work of Makoto Fujimura, under whom he studied.
One series of smaller canvases was inspired by boyhood visits with a brother to the pier in Monterey, California, with the sensations of saltwater taffy and caramel corn stuck to memories of the ocean. Others incorporate shoes and parts of studio jackets worn by Clark during years of painting. Two pay phones wearing contemporary coats of turquoise and yellow evoke a time when phone conversations were limited by place and money.
Clark’s canvases, some oversized, are similar grab-bags of artistic touches: lines in paint, pencil, oil stick and pastel. Broad and narrow, long and short. Straight and curved.
They may look random, but for the abstract expressionist there’s a method to the madness. “I like the look of less control, but I’m thinking through the depth and weight and color of the piece,” he said.
An art professor during his years at Azusa Pacific University urged him to find his artistic voice by paying less attention to control in his work, Clark said, and that lesson of creating from instinct and the subconscious still drives some of his art.
Clark, in fact, created brushes with handles four and five feet long out of broom handles and PVC pipe to make it harder for him to control his strokes of paint on canvas, he said.
That said, Clark says he spends months reading deeply and widely in a variety of fields and disciplines, philosophy to pop culture, before undertaking themes such as memory for his current show.
Though audiences are free to interpret his art, words are important, too, and Clark spends time titling his works to communicate the intent behind a piece. “I know the prose I’m trying to put into color,” he said.
Explaining art and what goes into it comes with the territory of building an arts audience and community, Clark said, and part of his “Lost, Recovered and Remaining” exhibit will include a night of discussion. He’ll talk with Baylor University communications professor Jane Damron in “The Philosopher’s Take: A Deep Dive into the Work of Ty Nathan Clark” from 8 to 10 p.m. June 21 in the Undercroft space under Cultivate 7twelve (admission is $10).
Communication and education also is behind his Waco artists group The Unknowns, six artists who have moved to Waco in recent years and who meet to discuss each other’s work and support their public exhibits.
The more introductions to and explanations of art that exhibit visitors have, the more likely they’ll come away with new memories and become informed supporters of Waco’s art scene, Clark said.
“I want to make people comfortable with talking about art,” he said.