Her Work: Cathleen Clarke

Learn more about Collective 131 featured artist this month, Cathleen Clarke

A New Year 1981

A New Year 1981

Cathleen Clarke was born in Chicago, IL in 1988, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She earned a master's degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA in 2014. She has exhibited internationally, and was recently announced as a finalist for the Hopper Prize Award.

Artist Q & A:

Where do you live/work?

I just moved from my hometown of Chicago, IL to Brooklyn, NY.

What themes do you explore in your art?

Inspired by childhood and the enigmas that surround it, my work explores themes of memory, mystery, and the passing of time. When I was younger, my family and I moved from Chicago to a very small, rural town in northern Illinois which was a really big change for me. It was a town that my friends and I always wanted to get out of. That time in my life went by so quickly, but little did I know that it would have such an impact on myself and my work today. I miss the country, and that small town still continues to influence my work.

What is your experience being a woman in this industry?

When I first started, I think a lot of people were surprised by the work that I produce probably because it didn’t seem to reflect my personality socially.

It made me realize that female artists constantly have to defend their work when it doesn’t match the expectations of others. But then I realized that I can have that conversation in more than one way and I choose to have it through my art. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone or put it into words because my art is my way of expressing myself.

The past few years, I’ve found great opportunities through organizations that are focused on promoting female artists such as Woman Made Gallery in Chicago and Collective 131. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be included in exhibits themed on female art. Through these opportunities, I’ve been able to share my work with a larger audience and I’ve found a lot of support through these female-run organizations.

Who are some artists/art professionals that you admire?

I’ve been very inspired by the work of Edwige Fouvry and Marlene Dumas. I love Fouvry’s loose brushstrokes and the way she evokes feelings of old memories. I especially love the disturbing imagery of Dumas’ work and her overall style. Maja Ruznic is another contemporary artist that I really admire, she has a way with telling a story through her paintings that really moves me.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Having just moved to a new city, I’m currently working part time and taking advantage of my time off by painting as much as I can. I paint out of the 1-bedroom apartment that I share with my husband and our cat Lou. I think painting in my apartment has its ups and downs, since I find it easy to paint whenever I’m free, but there are also more distractions at home. I’m most productive in the afternoons, so I’ll usually put on some sad tunes and then start painting until late.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find a lot of inspiration from music and books. I’m currently reading It by Stephen King, which is a great book to go along with the themes in my work. It’s very haunting and mysterious. I’m also inspired by photography, particularly old family photo albums that I’ve acquired since my parents moved out of our old house in the country.

What's next?

I’m really excited for a residency I have coming up with the NARS Foundation from January through March of next year. This will be my first residency and I can’t wait to spend the next 3 months really focusing on my work and meeting new people!

Cassandra Fiorenza