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BUSINESS MONDAY: Spotlight on Lauren Clark Fine Art and Childs + Clark Gallery—a double dip for your gallery gazing

The side-by-side spaces feature a curated selection of drawings, paintings, fine art prints, sculptures, functional pottery, and contemporary studio glass—plus special shows such as "Six of Seven" from July 7 to August 15.

Now, there are even more reasons to visit Lauren Clark Fine Art at 684 Main Street in Great Barrington (in the same building as Bizalion’s Fine Foods). Founder Lauren Clark has a longstanding reputation as a curator and seller of fine art, drawing many Berkshire residents and weekenders to her gallery over the years. In addition to representing “over 40 local and internationally recognized artists working as painters, printmakers, potters, glass blowers, and jewelers,” she also offers full-service custom framing services through Framing on the Edge—so you can source a one-of-a-kind art treasure and have it framed by someone who takes her custom design work equally seriously.

And right next door, you’ll find her newest partnership with artist Mary Childs—Childs + Clark Gallery—which features fine art glass, sculpture, and paintings. To celebrate the new space, which officially opened on May 25, they presented “Breathe,” featuring painters Bruce Brodie and Joe McCarthy, glass artists Mark Leputa, Martin Rosol, and Naoko Takenouchi, and sculptor Joe Wheaton.

“This stretch of Route 7 is always busy,” Clark notes, with Bizalion’s, Big Y, Guido’s, and other places attracting steady customers seven days a week. For years, the adjacent unit was occupied by another business that wasn’t open to the public. When the owner decided to leave, Clark reached out to a few people to see if they were interested in moving into the vacant space. When no one expressed interest, she and Childs decided to open a gallery together. “The two galleries play off each other,” she says, “but each gallery has an entirely different feel.”

Early days and valuable training

Clark majored in art at Elizabeth Seton College in Yonkers, New York (which later merged with Iona College in New Rochelle) and took a post-grad job in the restaurant industry. Her friends invited her to take a paper-marbling class at their art school in Beekman, N.Y. “This is it!” she thought. “There was something about the process. You create designs on a liquid bath (water and carrageenan, or Irish sea moss) by dropping ink onto it and end up with a wonderful surprise. It’s a little piece of magic.”

She attended the first (ever) paper marblers convention in Santa Fe in 1985—one of 150 participants. “It’s a fascinating ancient craft, but there weren’t many of us doing it,” she admits. And yet, she interjects, there was “lots of interest” whenever she offered paper marbling classes at Interlaken (now the Berkshire Art Center), and had waiting lists whenever she taught at camps or schools.

While working in a restaurant in Armonk, N.Y., and doing paper marbling on the side, she saw an ad in the local Penny Saver that read, “Looking for person to work in small framing shop. Must have good knowledge of fractions.” It immediately piqued her interest. “I had never touched a frame, but I did know my fractions, and they hired me on the spot,” she shares.

The job was at the Catherine Sylvia Reiss framing company in Scarsdale, N.Y., where Clark developed a specialty background. “I’ve worked with gold leaf, marbled papers, and other mediums in the very traditional style of framing antique prints, and I bring that training and experience to my design work with customers,” she notes. Today, Clark is responsible for all of the photo framing for The Mahaiwe and other prominent entities as well as private artists throughout the region.

A move to the Berkshires and into the gallery

Clark moved to the Berkshires from Armonk in 1989. She didn’t know anyone but quickly fell in love with the region—and never left. At the time, she was working exclusively as a paper marbler. “I met Robin Schmitt, who owned a gallery in Southfield at the time, and in 1992, we became business partners,” Clark recalls. Together, they ran the Tokonoma Gallery in Housatonic for 12 years. In 2006, Clark took sole ownership of the business, and in 2013, moved her gallery to Great Barrington, which she found to be “a better fit for attracting customers and hosting art openings, workshops, and readings.”

Lauren Clark Fine Art offers an intimate setting for getting to know artists’ work. Photo courtesy LCFA

“I work with a lot of local artists and sell drawings, paintings, fine art prints, and also functional glass and pottery and a little sculpture,” Clark explains, adding that she has curated or co-curated 80 to 90 gallery shows over the years. Clark is presently guest curator of the 46th Annual Contemporary Sculpture Show at Chesterwood in Stockbridge, on view through October 21. “Birth of a Shadow” features 17 pieces by seven regional sculptors—Peter Barrett, Peter Dellert, DeWitt Godfrey, Wendy Klemperer, Michael Thomas, Natalie Tyler, and Joe Wheaton—whose works explore “the intersection between light, space, and form,” thoughtfully placed throughout woodland trails and grounds of Chesterwood. “The last piece is being installed as we speak,” she says enthusiastically.

A longstanding collaboration births a new gallery

“Mary and I started doing events together during the summer of 2015, and we’ve done a glass show almost every other summer since,” Clark says. “Now we officially have a gallery together!” Childs chimes in, “The new gallery features paintings and sculptures of various mediums, including contemporary studio glass.”

Childs grew up in Andover and has maintained a residence in the Berkshires for 39 years while acting as an independent curator for various projects throughout the country. She is currently executive director of the Sandwich Glass Museum and previously served as director of the Duncan McClellan Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Their second gallery show—”Six of Seven”—will run from July 5 to August 5 (with an opening on July 13 due to the holiday). It features three painters and three glass artists (all female) plus a sculptor (a male)—hence the fraction. “I chose the works on the walls, and Mary chose glass pieces to go with them that relate through palette and/or form,” Clark explains, noting, “I have been showing three of the artists’ works for years but have never shown any of these specific pieces.”

“Six of Seven” opening reception announcement at Childs + Clark Gallery. Design by Andreas Engel

Although the three fine artists—Jeannie Celata, Jane Cooper, and Joan Hayes, all based in the Northeast—are primarily known for their landscapes, this show comprises only abstract works. Also featured are pieces by three prominent glass artists—Nancy Callan, Natalie Tyler, and Jen Violette—who exhibit nationally and internationally. “The works by the three glass artists offer a range of aesthetics and technical approaches to the medium of glass,” Childs shares. “Each artist is known for her special treatment of the medium.”

“Hettie and Audrey” by DeWitt Godfrey, one of the site-specific works at Chesterwood’s show, guest curated by Clark. Photo by Gregory Cherin

The seventh artist, also one of the artists featured in the Chesterwood show, is DeWitt Godfrey. “He’s the one sculptor out of the seven that I didn’t know initially, and it was quite a coup to get him,” Clark acknowledges. Internationally renowned for his monumental outdoor metal sculptures, Godfrey showed at Art Omi in Ghent, N.Y., a few years ago and always wanted to show at Chesterwood, she points out.

A probing new artist and one-person show

Lauren Clark Fine Art currently features a one-person show by an intriguing new artist named Elijah River Dion. “He came to me as a framer and was fabulous,” Clark states, adding, “He’s an incredible young artist who’s had a great background in New York City as a framer and also as a painter.”

Born and raised in urban southern New Hampshire, a younger Dion found himself “waiting for the man and searching for working veins,” according to his bio on New American Paintings. While living “close to the edge, watching most fall over,” Dion eventually turned his attention to art and belief in a power greater than himself.

“RID2.2” by Elijah River Dion, part of the gallery show. Image courtesy of the artist

“He’s a deep-thinking guy,” Clark continues. “Many of the paintings in the show have metal folding chairs in them. The floors and backgrounds are abstract light and shadows or landscapes, and the chairs are empty but suggest more. You get so much from the chairs.”

“The potency of the metal chairs spoke to me. There’s not a church in America that doesn’t have them,” Dion explains. Regarding the choice of leaving them empty, he says, “When I include people in my paintings, I always try to subvert the idea of anything having a complete narrative. Removing the figure from the work opens up more for viewers and more for me working in the studio, too.”

You can view both “Restless, Irritable, and Discontent” and “Six of Seven” at side-by-side gallery receptions at Lauren Clark Fine Art and Childs + Clark Gallery on Saturday, July 13, from 5 to 7 p.m.



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