Interview with Clark Yerrington
I’m a designer for architectural firm Bezek Durst Seiser and I’m a budding fine art photographer. Right now most of my photo work might be called offbeat urban landscapes.
What is your current role with MTS Gallery? How did you first become involved with the MTS and the Trailer Art Center?
Bruce Farnsworth tracked me down in 2005 after learning about my photographic web site – mostly a tribute to the 1940s-‘50s aspects of the Mt. View neighborhood [as they disappear]. I told him at our first get together it was fortuitous we met, and suggested I lend my architectural knowledge to development of the new art center. At the same time, Bruce and others have encouraged me to work on my photography more. I’m a member of the TAC board of directors, and active on its committees.
What do you like most about being a part of the MTS Gallery and the Trailer Art Center?
The chance to hang around with some top drawer artists working in Anchorage and Alaska. In 2005 I asked myself, am I really standing here talking to Hal Gage and listening to him compliment me on my work? [Is this for real?] One of my other longtime Alaska photographic heroes, Rob Stapleton mentioned my Mt. View Real Estate Trading Cards in a 2005 news article about the expanding fine art market. All of this was extremely encouraging to say the least – it made me think, if people like this are paying attention, I sense opportunity, and feel a responsibility to intensify my efforts.
Can you give a brief history of how the Trailer Art Center and MTS Gallery was formed? What is the relationship with the Trailer Art Center, MTS Gallery and the Land Trust?
The concept of the arts center is a longstanding idea amongst local artists to create a place where art is created and exhibited/performed in a collaborative environment, and the community is enjoined in the experience. It would represent a vast improvement over the resources and facilities available to artists individually. Something like it has been needed in Anchorage for a long time. MTS Gallery is a program of Trailer Art Center, and ACLT is a development partner.
Have you had any work shown at the gallery and/or been involved in any performances?
I’ve been part of three group invitational shows there and will have a solo photography exhibit opening March 20, 2009.
Can you name one show that you have seen (either visual or performance art or both) at MTS Gallery that really made an impact on you? What did you like most about the show?
It’s difficult to select just one. I thought the recent “Buy My Art” group exhibit and opening night performance was very well done – the artwork was edgy and smart, the treatment of the subject of art as a commodity was subtle and shocking at the same time, and the entire installation had a sort of youthful exuberance. It was rough around the edges but was all heart.
How do you hope the Trailer Art Center will grow and expand in the next 5 years?
We are talking with a design and development team about a permanent building, and working on expanding the capacity of the organization to run the facility. I hope it will be built within two or three years, and will become a well-loved neighborhood, city and state institution for decades to come.
How long have you been an artist? How did you initially become involved with your medium? How can we find out more about your work?
I was immersed in art from a young age. Both my mother and father were involved – drawing, painting, ceramics, graphics, printmaking. My dad was an architect and my mom attended ACC and UAA in the early ‘70s where she received a degree in art. At school she got to work with Alex Combs, James Schoppert and many other accomplished Alaska artists. We were constantly encouraged and provided with materials, classes and inspiration. As a pre-teen in Seattle I saw some significant gallery shows of pop art – very influential. Later I experimented in drawing, comics, graphic design, radio and underground newspapers and fanzines. I’ve been taking photos since age 7 but began pursuing it seriously in 2005 when I acquired some new camera equipment. I’m going to work on a new web site soon. For now I just have bins full of negatives and slides and a bunch of stockpiled images and work in progress on my flickr page.
What inspires you to do your work?
Our surroundings are constantly changing – and typically not for the better. I don’t necessarily like taking that attitude, especially since my architectural work is tied into development and redevelopment – but I’m concerned that we’re willing to discard old land uses and buildings casually, without fully considering their value and how they inform us about our predecessors’ lives. I don’t want to over-romanticize the past, either. But I do have a sense of urgency that everything’s changing so quickly I need to be out there all the time, trying to record various scenes before they go away forever and we can’t remember them. And I try to depict these places in a way that makes their intrinsic value apparent.
How long have you been an architect and what do you like about doing that line of work?
I have to call myself a Designer because the rules prevent qualifying for the professional exam on experience only [I have a degree in a different field]. I’ve been working in architectural offices for 25 years. It’s been a great experience with high profile local firms and some amazingly talented colleagues and mentors. The aspect I like best is that it’s not boring and routine – each project is unique, with different challenges and rewards. I like working on houses the most.
What show are you most excited about to see/be involved in at the MTS Gallery this year?
Hopefully I’m going to be working with Carolyn Kinneen on what she calls the “POP Show”, this spring. Sounds like it will merge skate/snowboard culture, pop art traditions and also include experimental music and film screenings.
Are you a Mountain View resident? What do you like most about living in Mountain View? What is the biggest misconception people seem to have about your neighborhood? Have you been involved in the Mountain View community? How long have you lived in Alaska and where did you grow up? Do you have children?
I was born in Seattle in 1960 and lived there until age 12 when I came to Anchorage with my family. I’ve been here since except for college in Tacoma and a year in Seattle in 1987-88. [I still have a great deal of affection for Seattle and vicinity and I’ve visited there once or twice a year for the past 15 years.] I’ve lived in several areas of Anchorage. I’ve been in Mt. View since 1999. I was VP of the Mt. View Community Council in 2005-06 and I’ve done subcommittee work for MVCC and have been an advocate for the neighborhood in various ways, mostly in the area of land use planning. For two years I’ve written about various Mt View issues on a blog. The misconceptions are numerous. I really like Mt. View and appreciate it on multiple levels, even if it’s still a work in progress and some social problems persist. It is lively, complex and variegated compared to most of the rest of Anchorage. I have two grown children.
If you had a vision for a transportation solution in the greater Anchorage area, what would it be?
Bicycle. It’s fun and good for you and it’s the only sensible solution in this age.
In your opinion, how can art effectively change a community?
The possible transformative effects would be difficult to exaggerate – but it doesn’t affect everybody the same way. Locating an art center in Mt View is a good idea because of the neighborhood’s multicultural resource. If a real symbiotic exchange occurs later, the art center could be cathartic in all sorts of ways. There are already quite a few people in Mt. View involved in artistic pursuits, but the neighborhood still feels transient. If more artists start living here, taking root and building interesting studio/living compounds, at some point just walking down the street will become an art experience. I’m not sure if that’s in the cards or not, but it sure seems like a good shot. I was impressed on the last couple Seattle trips to find dozens, maybe hundreds of artists’ live, work and exhibit spaces mushrooming in lots of places they didn’t used to be, such as the International District, the Rainier Valley and Georgetown.
What, in your opinion, makes a good artist?
I like challenging content, and a diversity of strengths – looking at work more closely and discovering a wealth of depth and insight. It’s powerful for me to see something that’s risky, unconventional and brash but also sophisticated and finely crafted.
Any other comments?
Keep up your fine work on this site. I know it isn’t “authorized”, but it represents MTS well.
above photo – Spenard Alley by Clark Yerrington
above photo – 5th and A house by Clark Yerrington
missed the hyperlinks in the article? check out Clark’s blog – http://mt-view.blogspot.com/
Thanks to Clark Yerrington for sharing his words, photos, time and links!