Whatever Floats Your Boat! Mixed-Media Works by Pat Clark at Sage Custom Framing & Gallery

(Travel Memories, mixed media drawing, 10”x20” by Pat Clark)

This month of May, Sage Custom Framing and Gallery presents Whatever Floats Your Boat, a series of mixed-media images by master printmaker Pat Clark. As the exhibition title suggests, boats, in a variety of guises both obvious and subtle, serve as the common denominator in the over 20, small-to-medium, framed pieces on display. Approximately 12 unframed artworks in a flip-through portfolio format are also present for perusal and purchase. Although First Fridays have not yet resumed in Bend, Denise Rich, owner of the frame shop/gallery, will keep its doors open until 7pm that Friday, May 7, with Clark present for informal conversation and questions about her work.

An incredibly prolific artist with a formidable track record of exhibitions and appointments held, including sixteen years as a professor at California State University, Long Beach and founder of Bend’s former printmaking studio Atelier 6000 (presently relocated in Sisters as Studio 6000 Printmakers), a now retired Clark maintains a rigorous practice by drawing every single day. “I start at six or seven each morning, and I can be there till ten or eleven,” Pat says. Her abundant sketchbooks, which I had the privilege of viewing during a sit-down interview with the artist, overflow with boat and water-based imagery, much of which began with her 2018 exhibition, Water Tables. “These are my daily notes, all pen and ink,” she informs me, and what a treasure trove of observations, imaginings, contemplations and reflections they are!

Inspiration for Whatever Floats Your Boat came to Clark following a recent and difficult bout with cancer, which, if you know the resilient artist, she not surprisingly overcame. In need of a diversion from the malady, Pat began rummaging through her sketchbooks and discovered the extent to which boats figured in her work. “I was in need of going away, of traveling to another world. I started searching through my old sketchbooks, and there were these boats,” the artist reveals. Considering Clark’s upbringing in Fargo, North Dakota, a city bordering the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (Minnesota); the family lakehouse on Detroit Lakes, Minnesota; her undergraduate education in Bemidji, Minnesota located on Lake Bemidji; her masters in fine arts years at Cranbrook Academy of Art not far from Lake St. Clair in Michigan; her postgraduate study in the Netherlands; and her years spent teaching at Long Beach; her affinity for water-related subject matter comes as little surprise. 

When asked if she was thinking of specific boats for this project, Clark denies any particularity and instead references a broad spectrum of boats that have appeared and reappeared throughout her life as filtered through her sharp memory. From traditional dugout canoes used by Native Americans for wild rice collecting to slick and often highly decorated surfboards and kayaks, any boat presents ample opportunity for creative investigation, she notes. Leafing through her abundant sketchbook studies, Pat narrates her thought process to me: “This one shows stitching of birch bark, and here a more scientific interpretation of the interior and exterior of a boat. Many illustrate my interest in patterning and the use of negative and positive space as seen in Japanese woodcuts and prints. Sometimes I give myself the test of realism and abstraction, and here I combine the kind of architectural drawing I do with the natural. Then I began to think about the eskimos and their boats, and how, when you age, if there’s no hope, they put you on the boat and bye, bye. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘What a great thing!’”

As we continued chatting in Clark’s in-home studio, I noticed two model boats on her desk given to her by a friend, both of which figure prominently in her studies and final works. “I call this one The Beast and this one Webster,” Pat says with a chuckle. Speaking generally of the creative process, the artist offers the following instructive commentary: “It’s the object and reverence for it that inspires you. It’s what makes you want to do more with something, whether it’s the shadows that fall upon it, the specific placement of it in the composition, or the environment that surrounds it. I maintain a great respect for process and for moments of silence and doing, which is so important for artists and anyone for that matter. You get inspired by reading people’s work, by looking at people’s art and craft, by listening to music, but there’s that insular moment for you personally that really is going to be the thing that drives the process.” Object, process and reverence: a powerful triad that any aspiring artist should thoughtfully consider.

Whatever Floats Your Boat, a mixed media exhibition rich in both formalist concerns and psychological content, is on view this month of May at Sage Custom Framing and Gallery in downtown Bend. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the exquisite renderings of one of Oregon’s premier artists, Pat Clark! To view a selection of Clark’s works online, visit her website at watermarkprintmaking.com.

Located on Brooks Street between the breezeway and the Tower Theatre, and adjacent to Mirror Pond parking lot, Sage is open Tuesday through Friday, 10am-4pm with extended hours until 7pm on Friday, May 7. Masks required. To contact the shop, visit sageframing-gallery.com or call 541-382-5884.


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