Chris Clark Collection consists of three quilts created by self-taught folk and visionary artist Chris Clark. The colorful, painted quilts are dated 2004 and depict a saxophone player, a church congregation, and grandma. Clark states, “I am donating these quilts in honor of my grandmother Dozada Smith – who taught me to quilt and my grandmother’s mother – Lucy Clark – who taught her to quilt.” “Grandma” and “The Church” were featured in the exhibition, On Their Own: Selected Works by Self-Taught African American Artists, from January 31 through June 12, 2005 at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Chris Clark, born in 1958, grew up in west Birmingham, Alabama. He graduated from Ensley High School in 1977 and studied at Livingston University. After serving in the Army for seven years, he worked in masonry. After the brick factory closed, Clark’s vision declined. His eyesight improved when he was diagnosed and began treatment for diabetes. During this time, Clark started painting. In 1989, his grandmother taught him to quilt. Soon after, his quilts were being shown in folk art galleries in Montgomery and Birmingham, and sold at Kentucky and other art festivals.
Despite his grandmother’s protests, Clark painted pictures on his quilts. With a mixture of fabric dye and acrylic paint, he began to make his story quilts. The early stories were biblical. Clark is known for vivid colors, spirituality, and storytelling in his works: painted and applique quilts, chairs, and “spirit sticks.”
In addition to creating art, Clark taught art to children, some as young as two years old, at Birmingham Museum of Art, Space One Eleven, and schools in Alabama. He loved working with children. In 2011, Clark died after a long battle with diabetes.
Clark’s work is part of the permanent collections at the Birmingham Museum of Art and Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Hicks, Kyra E. 2003. Black threads: an African American quilting sourcebook. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.
Kemp, Kathy, and Keith Boyer. 1994. Revelations: Alabama's visionary folk artists. Birmingham, Ala: Crane Hill Publishers.
Mazloomi, Carolyn. 1998. Spirits of the cloth: contemporary African-American quilts. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.
Painter, Nell Irvin. 2006. Creating Black Americans: African-American history and its meanings, 1619 to the present. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sellen, Betty-Carol, Cynthia J. Johanson, and Betty-Carol Sellen. 2000. Self taught, outsider, and folk art: a guide to American artists, locations and resources. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.
African American quiltmakers
Color in art
Human beings in art
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum