Never Before Exhibited work of Chris Clark
Chris Clark (Tampa, FL)
Scrimshaw (photo realism)
Oil Painting (photo realism)
Acrylic (photo realism)
There are some unknowns in the art world. Your neighbor could be spending time in a backyard studio creating some incredibly fine-tuned, sharply rendered oil paintings, acrylic paintings, and scrimshaw pieces. This is an accurate scenario, if you’re Chris Clark’s neighbor…
Now living in the USF area, like most artists Chris Clark has created artwork his entire life, however he never exhibited any of it in a gallery, until we opened Unsheathed in March of 2018. He’s not on instagram, he’s not on Facebook, he doesn’t exist anywhere on the internet. As an artist these days that’s pretty unheard of, but the absence of Chris in a digital world makes his work that much more interesting in person. On May 3rd, Mergeculture gallery opened Unsheathed, displaying over 30 pieces of Chris’s work.
About Chris Clark
Growing up in Michigan, Chris Clark was always interested in art and consistently won art competitions in school. Upon graduating high school he apprenticed with what would be at the time the “towns leading artist” at a posh estate. After his apprenticeship, and a brief semester at Ringling in Sarasota, he went back to Michigan and worked odd jobs. One of his co-workers fixed TV’s on the side, and mentioned a house he had repaired a television at had work that was many times better than the town’s leading artist. The co-worker told him the address, but it was the wrong house. He knew the artist lived on a lake, so he knocked on every door on the lake until he found the artists house. He then knocked on the door and subsequently developed a friendship with Gordon Krieghoff, a commercial artist and illustrator for auto manufacturers in Detroit, related to the 19th century Dutch-Canadian painter Cornelius Krieghoff, and this friendship shaped Chris’s style, and his body of work for the next 30 years.
What is fascinating about Chris’s work, is not only that it has been largely invisible for the last 30 years, is the attention to detail and skill placed into each piece. Chris is also a scrimshaw artist – working on an occasional knife handle, or ethically sourced ivory (ancient ivory, or walrus teeth) jewelry commission.
Scrimshaw is a technique that you’d generally find in the northeast, or Alaska. If you go into a gift shop in a place like Bar Harbor Maine, you may find incredible scrimshandry. Although, it is certainly not expected for an artist in North Tampa to have knowledge of the craft, and complete pieces so precise.
Chris got into the practice of scrimshaw when a coworker was building custom knives. The knife maker was interested in a scrimshawed knife handle, so he asked Chris if he would be willing to try it. He figured out the process and went on to create some highly detailed pieces, many of which are smaller than a quarter in size, and even smaller than the size of a pinky nail.
Scrimshaw is a technique that involves scratching and etching into ivory. Scrimshandry was developed in the late 1600s by whalers. (these days, you can’t get ivory due to it being illegal, so Chris’s pieces are created on walrus teeth, and ancient ivory, which is sourced by indigenous Alaskan natives and the material is derived from tusks from mastodons and mammoths)
When Unsheathed opened on March 3rd, 2018, new faces were exposed to Chris’s work, and that’s what this gallery business is all about. It was great to see him explain his process to many viewers. Take a look at the recap of the event.
If you’re interested in purchasing any of Chris’s work, contact the gallery via this form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org