In August, Birmingham lost a remarkable artist, teacher, and member of our community with the passing of Chris Clark (1958-2011). Clark’s vibrant quilts, furniture, walking sticks, and other painted and assembled objects found admirers among eager folk art collectors in Alabama while garnering national attention as well. The Museum pays homage to his talent and special gifts in an exhibition, Celebrate Life: The Art of Chris Clark, which opened last month for viewing through the end of the year.
This exhibition is not a retrospective, but will contain an overview of many of Clark’s favorite subjects and illustrate the variety of media he explored through his creativity and willingness to take risks with a variety of materials. Clark’s quilts combine traditional quilting with vibrant painted images. A deeply religious person, he frequently depicts Biblical scenes, scripture, as well as church interiors and worship services. In addition to religious subjects, Clark often depicts jazz and blues musicians and children at play. Many of these same themes found their way into his brightly painted furniture.
In 1990, Clark’s vision began to fail due to diabetes. Believing he would eventually lose his eyesight entirely, he resolved to pursue a longtime desire to paint while he still could. He began painting on scraps of wood and flea market furniture, but soon after his grandmother taught him to piece and stitch quilts, the artist combined the two mediums, to lively and colorful effect. Celebrate Life: The Art of Chris Clark allows us to honor Clark’s artistic legacy even as we, as a community, reflect on his passing.