Christine Clark’s metal-and-concrete sculptures are indescribably intriguing: Their materials are both solid and soft; the curved shapes seem somewhat familiar yet are unrecognizable; a small blip of color catches your eye. And that’s exactly what the Portland sculptor intended.
“I’m really interested in the human figure, but I want to keep my sculptures abstract, purely an expression of characteristics,” says Clark, who grew up in a suburb of Chicago. “The human body is so fleshy and curvy; it can be so seductive. And I’ve always been interested in how people carry themselves, how their characteristics are reflected in their body type.”
Clark’s sculptures start with the figure, but you’ll never see forms that mimic a head, shoulders, arms or legs. “My work evolved into choosing a portion of a body—a head, say, or a bend in an arm—and portraying it in a way that is vaguely familiar yet still indescribable,” she says.
Those ideas are embodied in Seductively Green (right), a 40-inch-tall form made in Clark’s signature style: A welded steel armature covers a skim-coat of concrete. “I wanted to create something voluptuous yet unrecognizable,” says the artist, who draws and redraws shapes in a sketchbook until the perfect one presents itself. “It’s gourdlike yet not like any plant you’ve seen; it’s definitely not a figure and it’s not a vessel.”
Clark wove soft white fur into Seductively Green as a contrast against the cold, hard concrete and steel, but embellishing her work isn’t the part of sculpting that she most enjoys. “Welding the armature is my absolute favorite part of the process,” she says. “It’s ironic because the part I love doing the most shows the least. But welding forms the shape, so in that way, it shows through.”
It’s no wonder welding is Clark’s favorite part. She earned fine arts degrees in metalsmithing and jewelry from the University of Washington and the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Craftsmen in Rochester, N.Y. ”I approach my work as a metalsmith would: careful planning and attention to detail,” she says.
Clark heads the metals department at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, where she’s taught for 22 years. “I love getting my hands dirty and figuring out how to put things together” says Clark, whose husband and 10-year-old daughter are also artists. Seductively Green sells for $2,000.
Contact sculptor Christine Clark through the Alysia Duckler Gallery (1236 N.W. Hoyt St.; 503-223-7595) in Portland.