Sandoval Signpost
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  Featured Artist

Signpost featured artist: Barbara Clark

Barbara Clark

Artist Barbara Clark
Photo credit: —Dennis Chamberlain

c. Barbara Clark

Corrales Color, oil painting

c. Barbara Clark

There Were Three, oil painting

c. Barbara Clark

The Guest House, oil painting

From counting to creating: Barbara Clark

—Oli Robbins

There seems to be a general belief that artists exercise the right side of the brain more than the left—that the right side is more dominant in creative, intuitive individuals than in those more analytical and detail-oriented. But Corrales landscape painter Barbara Clark is imaginative, expressive, and pragmatic; she became an artist after decades of excelling in the more “sensible” field of accounting. And unlike many artists who proclaim to have been predisposed to the arts from early childhood, Clark admits that art entered her life much later on. She did enjoy a couple of years of art-making and daydreaming in high school, but was jolted back to “reality” soon after. Says Clark, “I was going to get married, have a husband support me and my ten children, be an artist, and have a house that was a mess all the time.” But none of that materialized and, instead, Clark became an accountant.

Clark grew up outside of Baltimore, spending decades on the East Coast and feeling no particular attraction to the Southwest until she moved here for work in ‘97. Says Clark, “I had not even the most remote interest in the Southwest. They could have cut it right off the map and I wouldn’t have cared!” Even after moving here, Clark’s appreciation for New Mexico’s unique landscape took a little time to develop. “At first,” Clark explains, “everything looked brown. But after a couple of months, I started to see all the color. And now there’s no place else I’d need to live. It’s a beautiful place to be.” Clark finds constant solace and inspiration at home in Corrales, which offers her a lovely view of the mountains and morning walks along the ditch.

Painting is a relatively new career for Clark, who worked in Albuquerque for a computer services company until 2006, when the company was sold. Without a job, she decided to take one summer off to unwind. She told herself that in the fall she’d “find an easy accounting job where I just add numbers.” “But,” says Clark, “that’s not at all what happened. I started painting, and I really liked it. I told myself that I’ll do it for a year, and if I make a profit, I’ll let myself continue.” The transition was timed fortuitously, since she had rediscovered painting just months prior when a friend invited her to a dinner party, featuring a pastel painter. At the dinner, Clark watched a painting demo and later created her own work. Clark found the dinner/art party “really fun” and was pleased with her resultant painting. Even though she was too busy working at the time to continue studying painting seriously, she equipped herself with an easel and high-quality paints. “I started to look forward to when I had off on the weekends so I could paint. That’s what started it all.” Little did she know that the following summer she would begin to work as a full-time artist.

Clark’s objective as a painter has shifted over the past decade. “When I began painting,” explains Clark, “I did what a lot of painters do. My desire was to replicate what I saw—replicate that tree or that peach and make it look as much like a peach or tree as I could.” But as she cultivated her individual identity as an artist, and further understood her relationship with form and color, she began to move away from mimetic portrayals. “I grew into a period when I started adding more color, turning the volume up on things and distorting them a bit.” Now, says Clark, “I want to catch the essence of things. I want people to look at my work and know, from ten feet away, exactly what it is, but get up to the painting and say ‘what is this?’” Clark’s paintings represent their subjects (usually landscapes) faithfully, but do so by capturing the sentiment of the object and the moment. She hopes to convey the smells and atmospheric effects that she encountered while observing her subject, for her paintings to be experiential as much as visual.

Clark’s canvases are teeming with nature’s landscapes, from marshlands to boating docks to rolling hills and desert mesas. She relishes painting en plein air and the fresh, confident brush strokes that it demands. For large paintings, Clark rarely works from photographs, preferring to work from her smaller plein air paintings. “I never get tired of landscape,” says Clark. Part of her unending fascination stems from her acquired ability to mindfully observe her surroundings. In them, she sees a myriad of colors in every form—more colors than initially greet the eye. “When I used to see trees, I’d see green. Now I see red trees and green trees and blue trees. I see all these other colors in the green. I’m obsessed, just obsessed.”

The Placitas Artists Series will feature Clark’s paintings this month at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The artist reception will take place October 25, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., with a concert to follow at 3:00 p.m. Her work can also be seen at the Corrales Bosque Gallery, Weems Galleries in Old Town, Gallery Tamaya, and Lacuna Galleries in Santa Fe. She welcomes visits to her home studio by appointment. Visit her website to view paintings and contact the artist:

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