I was born into post war Quincy Massachusetts on December 8, 1945. The Granite quarry next door to our home was a constant reminder of the housing shortage. The quarry's angular patterns, detailed textures and the intermittent explosions inspired me early on. This experience was mirrored later in the hyperactive 3 year old who could be quiet in the kitchen with pencils and shirt cardboards to draw on and later as a boy scout carving pine with a pocket knife, then watercolor and pastels for the nearsighted high school student.
After receiving a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, I found myself in Newport in the sixties in the middle of a vigorous art scene. I began taking commissioned work to support my personal explorations as an independent artist.
In the winter of 1969, I flew to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to carve the figurehead of the HMS "Rose". The Smith and Rhuland ship yard became my graduate school. The "Rose", a 180 foot square rigger needed an authentic wood carved figurehead of the royal rampant lion holding the kings shield. This became my project for the winter. My teachers were independent small boat builders from the Northeast coast of Nova Scotia ranging in age from 56 to 97. I was 21. I absorbed everything the old-timers would share from tool sharpening, carving secrets, and steam bending, to lifting awkward heavy carvings. They taught me standards of craftsmanship that have taken me forty years to master.
I returned from that invaluable experience to embark on a career that has always known the stability of my own workshop and a project to support it. Over the years I have had many part time jobs. The ship yards taught painting, sanding, lobstering, and pilot boat & yacht repair. On the farm I was haymaking and building post & beam structures. By the 1980's I was settled into marriage, children and a carved sign business. Since its founding in 1974, Clarke Signs has paid the bills. Throughout that time I have experimented with technical limits in carving. In trying to perfect signs through developing sand finishes and gold leaf, I actually rediscovered methods perfected in the late 19th century. Every artist who has produced commercial art will admit repetition is the best teacher.
My personal artwork time was found in stolen moments discovered during the workday while epoxy glue hardened and paint dried overnight. By the 1980's I was deep into the surreal-abstract universe on any weekend my wife would let me. I was working on abstract paintings in black, white, and yellow with surreal carved frames burning with gilded golden fire. By combining two elements I was creating a three dimensional element as in a symbolist poem in two and three dimensions is time. Time like music (Bebop & Charlie Parker), time & chaos, time expanding spontaneously and loose. I created about 26 paintings. The elementary linear shapes moved in space from painting to painting. I envisioned the shapes in a slow motion film. Each painting was a random sampling of action on a three foot square frame. Only the color changed in each painting, inspired by the weather, changing seasons, and the cadence of Charlie Parker Bebop. I eventually painted three good paintings on the same red & blue theme and knew it was time for a change.
I began to study nineteenth century painting and sculpture at the height of realism in European and American art. I focused on the American civil war's military themes using period ink, paper, and brushes. I participated in reenactments and began recording the action. I discovered many techniques used to record motion (repetition-see Edward Muybridge). My best work in this period was a full sized three dimensional carving of military equipment; and a carving of an officers kepi, gloves, and journal.
Today, I am working on a World War One uniform draped over a chair complete with helmet, gas mask, coat, ammunition belt, and boots. The helmet is done and carving on the boot is almost finished. Next is the gas mask. I have been working part time on this piece for about three years. When done, it will be a recreation of the scarecrow figure locked in a room in a Maine barn. I'll elaborate on the story when the piece is completed in a few more years or so.
Social security, together with the odd sign job allow me to live comfortably and spend MY time in an alternate universe creating the things I see and experience there. Join me some day!
- David Clarke
* Kroeller Art Gallery, Wisconsin, Ivory show with ivory carving “remains to be seen”. 1987
* McHenry & Co. Ltd. Gallery, Brick Market Newport RI, six sculptures. 1980
* Aaron-Faber Gallery, New York NY, Figurative Influence in American Gold Smithing, Eight Ivory carvings. 1980
* Boston Visual Artists Union Gallery, Boston MA, Small Works Show. 1975
* B.V.A.U. Gallery, Boston MA, Sensuous Eye Show. 1974
* Boston Visual Artists Union Gallery, Boston MA, Spring Exhibit of Cyclorama.1974
* Mosquito Bush Gallery, Newburyport MA, Eight sculptures. 1974
* B.V.A.U. Gallery, Boston MA, Spring Exhibition, 1973
* Renaissance Gallery, Portsmouth NH, One-Man-Show. 1972
*Atlantic City Art Festival, Atlantic City NJ, First Prize for sculpture; Third prize for drawing. 1969
* Newport Outdoor Art Festival, Newport RI, First Prize for sculpture. 1969
*Bannisters Gallery, Newport RI, One-Man-Show. 1969
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