October 6 – 31, 2014
Rachel Clark’s series of oil paintings, The Yearbook Project, is an evolving archive of portraits, cartoons and heads. “If seeing is selection, a process of framing, then I want the face right up to the painting’s edge to amplify its intimacy with all of the fluctuating suggestions of makeup, skin condition, light and shade, using the masklike qualities of the medium,” Clark said. “This perpetually expanding series straddles portraiture and abstracted figuration.”
Clark holds an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Tennessee and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Based in Athens, OH, Clark serves as grant writer and Instructor for the Upward Bound Program at Ohio University.
The Yearbook Project is an evolving archive of portraits, cartoons, and heads. If seeing is selection, a process of framing, then I want the face right up to the painting’s edge to amplify its intimacy with all of the fluctuating suggestions of makeup, skin condition, light and shade, using the masklike qualities of the medium. This perpetually expanding series straddles portraiture and abstracted figuration. While employing the portrait as a pictorial device, I am interested in how I can be put to new, contemporary uses ideas from historic painting: the preoccupation with the face or window, the complexity and history on our faces, the openly stylized portrayals, and the search through the materials for signs of abstraction to represent the figure in cartoonish extravagant color.
What is unique about your process and how does this define your practice?
I set up my studio to facilitate a conversation between works within a set, series, or chapter. These sets of painting can also take a familial resemblance thematically or in terms of the palette.
What influences your work or your creative process?
My relationship with portraiture stems from the photographic archive of the family portrait wall. I tend to present my painted “Yearbook of Portraits” within the context of the grid for a democratizing effect.
Humor influences my work in sometimes direct ways like the painting titled “Hair Baby” and indirect ways like using cartoonish / graphic formal qualities in my painting process. Sometimes I lean toward the historic lineage of smooth painting portraiture and other times I seek to obfuscate a more grotesque expressionism or playfulness of caricature.
What lessons have you learned from other artists?
Artists have similar obstacles to the process of creativity: 1. Momentum vs. inertia; 2. Developing a reverence for the studio practice and appointing time; and 3. Fear and failure. Time + trust in the process = commitment (maybe).
When I was in undergrad one of my teachers told me to read the writings of artists and their biographies. Lately, I have been reading about Philip Guston in his daughter’s book the “Night Studio” and his lectures/conversations.
Rachel Clark (Athens, OH), 2014