i first discovered naomi clark's work last summer at a moma ps1 warm up party where she and her collective, fort makers, had created the stage backdrop. the backdrop had beautiful colors and abstract shapes -- immediately i had to meet the artist behind it! a few months ago i had the pleasure of doing a studio visit with naomi herself. during our visit, i felt a lot of synergy with the artist and her creative work. first, naomi considers herself a female robert rauschenberg (my favorite artist since i was a kid) and much of her creative process involves collaborative art making. naomi says that when talking about your work, it is all encompassing: "life is art and art is life." she believes art is a place where we can act out ideas. naomi even considers her mistakes part of her artistic process. as an artist and a collaborator, naomi is constantly learning how to balance individual expression and her many collaborative projects.
cultureisland: tell us more about you.
naomi clark: i came to brooklyn in 2006 to study painting. i moved from my hometown of boulder, colorado. brooklyn was another beast. i told my family and friends i would be back right after i finished school and now it’s been a decade. that’s the thing with new york; you never really finish school because there is so much to learn. one year i joined the community garden and befriended the old-timers who plant themselves there in the summer. they asked me (and still do) why in the world i would leave colorado for ny… this question is more a conversation starter, a way to assess the pro and cons of city life, i think it probably happens about a zillion times everyday in the city.
cultureisland: tell us more about your paintings. what led you to select painting as a medium?
naomi clark: i always loved to paint. paint = freedom. when i was a kid i would color and color and until the whole page was filled in, no white space. that is how i understood to finish a piece.
cultureisland: what is your process for making your work?
naomi clark: my process is constantly being refined. i now think of each work in the context of a series. i think individual abstract works are better understood within a group. it places the work into a larger visual landscape. then are the plain old ‘nuts and blots’ space to work, material gathering, and preparation. after all this the fun comes.
cultureisland: what kind of subject matter do you focus on?
naomi clark: i focus on the interaction of form through color and gesture.
cultureisland: how has your painting style evolved over time?
naomi clark: my style as become more contemplative and the forms have become larger and more articulated. my style has matured with me. i still want rawness in my work. this is now a challenge; where as when i was younger the challenge was control.
cultureisland: how do you name your pieces?
naomi clark: i stare and stare at the piece and think of the first things that come to mind. then i piece the words that come together and play with them until they fit. i really enjoy naming my work.
cultureisland: tell us more about fortmakers. what is it and how did it come about?
naomi clark: fort makers started the year i left school. i met my co-founder nana through friends and we hit it off creatively. she was looking for a change and i was looking to continue my creative journey in brooklyn. i asked her to help me curate my thesis show at pratt. i liked how she was so enthusiastic about art. it was great. we started fort makers off with ‘the blanket project’. i made a series of ‘quilt paintings’ and we went from there. the name fort makers evokes the childhood game of building forts. it is also about people working together to build something. we are very inspired by the bauhaus. i am one of the artists that fort makers collaborates with as well as a founding member.
cultureisland: what affect has teaching had on your work?
naomi clark: i love teaching. teaching has helped me articulate ideas and learn new techniques. i like meeting students and hearing their stories and what brought them art.
cultureisland: who are some of your favorite artists?
naomi clark: i have been thinking a lot about andrea zitell’s work. i admire jessica stockholder, jonas wood, and paul wackers, eddie martinez, and ron nagle, el anasui and helen frankenthaler
cultureisland: what are you listening to right now?
naomi clark: pinchy and friends and the mixtape club. i love jazz, there is this great song my heart belong to daddy by dizzy gillespie. i like dolly parton and 90’s rock, especially the yeah yeah yeahs, weezer and the red hot chili peppers; i also love future islands and the hold steady. i love blood orange and conan mockasin.
cultureisland: have you watched anything inspiring lately?
naomi clark: um, hmmm, i saw chi-raq!! loved it! i thought it was a highly intelligent piece of art (with a capital a!) that addressed many pressing issues in our country happening right now.
cultureisland: what are your favorite places to eat, shop, drink coffee in your neighborhood?
naomi clark: the civil service café is my favorite coffee and they have this hot sauce called fil fil that is sooo good! it’s like 100 gloves of garlic in one bite and will get rid of a cold on the spot. i like bedford hill for their bagels, i like the tacos at lucha lucha and come on everybody to shake a leg. as for shopping, i like giving all my expendable income to my yoga studio around the corner, a good sweat is worth a billion bucks.