Brenda J. Clark, painter News

< previous  |  next >


about the artist
paintings - archived

Lyrical Realists, by Ray Betts

Seeing Brenda J. Clark's paintings immediately struck a well-loved chord for me—"John Marin."

In her own highly distinctive way Brenda is carrying on Marin's love affair with shores and hillsides very different from those he painted, mostly around New England. Yet, the boldness of the paintings and the stubborn individualism of the two painters link them in the same tradition. That tradition began a century ago when a series of explosions shook the calm in American arts.

One of those concussions found young John Marin, alongside Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O'Keefe, pioneering a new freedom for painters at Alfred Stieglitz's obscure "291" Gallery in New York. The Modernist "lunatic revolutionaries," with Marin in the vanguard kept right on painting the real American scene just as they visualized it. In fact, Marin preferred to be called "a lyrical realist, if anything." So as others moved beyond them into ever more abstract and mysterious Expressionism, Marin and his friends insisted on plunging further into the meaning and the "feel" of scenes that everyday people could see for themselves, if only they dared to look deeply.

It is in that bold, individual "feel" for the scene and its challenge to the viewer, rather than in any superficial resemblance, that Brenda's continuing search recalls Marin.

The kinship of spirit breaks through in practical ways, too. Brenda's brilliant colors, like Marin's colors, exist not to copy an appearance but to reveal a meaning. They surprise us, they free us from our assumptions, and they show us the struggle to give us a real place at a single moment, as fully as mere paint and the painter humanly can.

Where Marin created his own geometry, with wild lines breaking free to soar off in all directions, as if extending the subject itself, Brenda has us looking through her heavy dark lines and masses to make her bright colors nearly transparent—achieving a kind of stained glass affect, as in a Roualt painting.

Finally, such special effects call for special frames.

Marin experimented with all kinds of framing devices inside and around his watercolors and oils. Similarly, Brenda's husband, Johnston Mitchell, expertly converts antique and other frames to give even more impact to her acrylics.

With Marin or Brenda J. Clark, it was and is all about the paint becoming the sign of freedom itself for the individual painter and the individual viewer.


This article has been reprinted from a Brenda J. Clark Gallery newsletter.
Download the entire issue here:

Brenda J. Clark Gallery summer 2007 newsletter
(672 K) Adobe PDF




Ray Betts is an Episcopal priest. He is retired as an instructor from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, and summers in Omena.

home  |   about the artist  |   news  |   paintings  |   archive  |   commissions  |   testimonials  |   gallery location  |   contact

© 2006–   Brenda J. Clark  |   P.O. Box 1041  |   Leland, Michigan  |   231.256.9356  |

Paintings may not be reproduced without permission from the artist.