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Art, Culture, Community: An Interview with Chris Clark

Updated: Mar 11


 

In this interview, we delve into the artistic journey of a creator deeply rooted in Black culture and representation. Exploring influences from Rastafari to personal experiences with dreadlocks, Chris Clark vividly incorporates these cultural elements into bold, vibrant works. From battling imposter syndrome to engaging with neglected communities through murals, he shares his insights on community-building and personal growth.

 



Artistic Roots: Your art carries a vivid and dynamic style. Can you tell us about the early influences that shaped your artistic journey? 


I’m inspired by so many different things, but two things that have influenced my work the most would be Black hair and Black Culture. I’m big on representation and the power that comes with seeing one’s reflection in art and in certain spaces. 

 

Cultural Influences: Many of your pieces showcase rich cultural themes. How do you incorporate cultural elements into your art, and what significance do they hold for you? 


One of the biggest cultural elements in my work is Rastafari. I grew up Rasta and it has always been a big part of my life from how I eat, dress, the music I listen to, how I treat others, and how I live. You will see a lot of the colors red, yellow, and green in my work. You will also see a lot of dreadlocks. Growing up, I was often the only kid in school with dreadlocks. Today, it’s hard to go to any school and not see them. Everyone from the students to the teachers have them. I love how Black people are embracing their natural hair and I want to show that in my work.


Even though dreads have become more accepted, there are still many challenges associated with wearing them. Students across the country are penalized for having locs. They are barred from walking at graduation, banned from competing in sporting events, and even being expelled from school for discriminatory dress code violations. We’ve seen this most recently in Texas. This is also important for me to show in my work. 

 

Color Palette Choices: The use of bold and vibrant colors is a hallmark of your work. What inspires your color choices, and how do you feel they contribute to the narrative of your pieces?


Everyone has favorites and mine are yellow and red. You will see these two a lot in my work. I like them because they pop! They make a statement and demand attention. The figures I paint are normally young Black boys, who often feel unseen, unheard, and undervalued. I dress and surround them I these bold and vibrant colors, so the viewer has no choice but to see them. 

 

Creative Challenges: Every artist faces creative blocks or challenges. Can you share a particular challenge you've encountered in your career and how you overcame it? 


One of my biggest challenges as an artist is battling imposter syndrome. I am a self-taught artist and so I used to feel like I had to compete with those who were academically trained. What I realized is that my only competition is myself. I want to be a better me today than I was yesterday. I understand that everyone is on a different level on their journey and to just focus on where I am and where I want to be.


Educating myself is also very important, so I’ve become an avid collector of art books and catalogs. I immerse myself in the arts, constantly watching documentaries, lectures, panel discussions. I’m often in rooms with established artists, curators, collectors, and art professionals. I want to make sure I’m able to contribute to the conversation and to do that I have to know my stuff. I still struggle with imposter syndrome from time to time. I just try my best to not compare my journey to others and continue to work hard. 



A recent mural by Clark, captured in progress.

Community Engagement: Your artwork seems to resonate strongly with the community. How do you see your art contributing to community building and engagement? 


I try to stay authentic to who I am as a person. I always say, “By telling my story, I’m telling the stories of others.” I think that’s why so many people resonate with my work. It speaks to them on a personal level. When I do murals, they are usually in communities that have been neglected by the city -- there's no arts and culture programming like in other areas. Most of these neighborhoods are predominantly Black and I think it's important for these communities to be able to go outside and see a grand reflection of themselves up on a wall for all to see. It instills pride and makes you feel worthy.


I have many valuable conversations with members of the community when I’m out working. It truly brings me joy to bring joy to these communities. But art is just a start. I hope to see more opportunities for growth and economics. More small businesses and community centers for the youth. I want to see these neighborhoods owning their blocks and not being forced out by gentrification. Art can’t do all of that, but I believe it can inspire it. 


Art and Mental Health: Art can be a powerful tool for mental wellness. Has your art journey intersected with themes of mental health, either personally or through audience interactions? 


Art has personally impacted my mental health. It’s a place for me to escape in times of stress. I can release all my emotions on the canvas. I like to compare painting to writing in a diary. You tell your diary your life in words on the written page. I do the same, but using images painted on canvas.


Art has helped me through many tough times in life. One of my favorite pieces is a portrait I did of me and my son when he was a baby. He was born during the height of the pandemic back in 2020 when the world was shut down. He was premature and had to spend 3 months in the NICU. Art helped me get through it. 

 

Evolution of Style: How has your artistic style evolved over time, and are there any new directions you are currently exploring or wish to explore?


While my artistic narrative has remained pretty much the same, I can say my approach to art making has changed a lot. In the beginning I mostly drew with pencil and ink pen. My practice was mostly illustrative. I then moved to acrylic paint which quickly became one of my favorite mediums. In 2021 I challenged myself to try oil paint and in 2023 it was my main medium. One of my other favorites is oil pigment sticks. I honestly like to explore and try everything -- I’m a very adventurous artist. It makes the art making process more fun. 


Advice for Aspiring Artists: What advice would you offer to emerging artists who are navigating the complexities of the art world today?


I always share the same advice and its simply to, “Do the work.” 

 

The Role of Social Media: In what ways have platforms like Instagram impacted your work and its reach? Do you see it as an essential tool for modern artists?


Social media is one of the most valuable tools in the artists' arsenal. Personally, I have been able to expand my reach, and have met so many great people around the world. I’ve received so many amazing opportunities all because someone saw my work online. I think it is vital for all artists to learn how to use social media to their advantage in this day and time. I know how challenging it can be to manage multiple platforms, but I recommend utilizing at least three. Each platform is different and has its own unique demographic. If you are trying to get yourself and your work out into the world, social media is your best bet. 

 

Future Projects: "Are there any upcoming projects or exhibitions you're particularly excited about? What can your followers look forward to?" 


The new year has already started with a bang. I will be working on multiple mural projects, group exhibitions, my second solo show, and more. All I can say is stay tuned. 



Photo courtesy of TeamMoney Productionz



Contact Chris Clark

For inquiries, collaborations, or to connect, you can reach out to them through the following channels: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cooli_ras_art/

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