The Duke sits down with Hannah Grace Clark

An untitled work by Hannah Grace Clark

By: Aaron Warnick | The Duquesne Duke

(Photo Courtesy of David Kelly) Artist Hannah Grace Clark
(Photo Courtesy of David Kelly – Artist Hannah Grace Clark

Hannah Grace Clark was featured as an “Emerging Artist” at the Three Rivers Arts Festival this past June. Her art exhibit Ancient Gods and Hidden Worlds will be open to the public during the month of September at The Gallery 4 on North Highland Avenue.

AW: There seems to be a unifying theme to a lot of your pieces and even some recurring characters. Looking at some of your work, one could definitely sense a lore or legend being told through images. Is there a story for the “Ancient Gods” from your paintings?
HGC: Absolutely. I don’t think I meant for it to happen when I first started painting. I just had all of these ideas that I needed to get out … I want to convey this quiet power. Some art is much in-your-face and loud with its message and I wanted something quiet … In the future, I want to start going into each world in my paintings and explore the characters I have put there. I’d figure out how all of those pieces fit together and find the story there. The most common feedback I’m getting from people is that they want to know the story. They want to know what’s going on. I haven’t written it yet, so I’m not sure how it’ll come together, but I’d like to see that happen.

AW: Since there wasn’t a pre-existing background for these characters, where do they come from? How did this world come about?
HGC: Thematically, my recent work is generally centered around a caretaker or a guardian. There are these solitary and ancient beasts that tend to their world. They speak to conflicts in my life. An internal dialogue that I have about how I have to balance having a passion for something while being a parent. When you have a passion you want to devote all of your time to it, but when you’re a parent, that same thing applies to your kids … and that theme plays itself out in the paintings. It takes form as these giant guardians that have to tend to the world and all of its beauty, but meanwhile they also embody wisdom and responsibility of heavier things.

AW: How does the medium of painting on wood or log sections contribute to the style or intended message of your art?
HGC: All of my paintings are on wood. I prefer that more traditional feel over canvas or paper. I wanted something more solid, something that could stand the test of time. It connects thematically to the characters I paint. When you have a painting on a log, you’re able to think more about where that piece came from. More so than something on paper. The painting on the log has a history that is right there. And after you add the finish to the work, it has this sort of luminosity that I really like.

AW: You’ve lived in quite a few different places. So, how has your background contributed to the art style that you’re now recognized for?
HGC: I grew up in Texas and Texas is huge, but I grew up in Houston. And Houston is this huge, very urban city. My art portrayed things that were inside. Everything was about the interior spaces, what goes on inside, what goes on inside your mind. I didn’t draw nature because I didn’t really see nature. You could see some things close up, but I never got a scale for nature from afar. Moving here [to Pittsburgh] blew my mind. It’s a constant source of inspiration. I mean, we get all four seasons here. Whereas in Houston, you’d get summer, summer, summer, two weeks of winter and then more summer. [In Pittsburgh] you get the cycle of seasons and you can watch how nature renews itself each time. Beyond that, you can drive around Pittsburgh and see where you live and how that’s often surrounded by nature in trees and hills and green. You can drive some miles outside of the city and you’ll find yourself in a forest. When I moved here, I found myself more and more painting directly from nature. I don’t think I could ever go back. There’s an endless flow of inspiration that comes from living here.

AW: You were set up in the “Emerging Artists” booth in this past Three Rivers Arts Festival and now you have your own gallery show at The Gallery 4. So what’s it like being an artist in this area?
HGC: I love Pittsburgh. As an artist, Pittsburgh is more supportive than any other city I have ever lived in. There’s this sense here that you always root for the home team, and that translates to the art scene. There are so many way that this city invests support in artists. There are grants and all kinds of resources for us. You get a sense that people are genuinely excited for you when you get to do what you’re passionate about.

An untitled work by Hannah Grace Clark
An untitled work by Hannah Grace Clark