Stand tall, dive in, create, keep it real, embrace, experience, share, repeat.. could be Ty Nathan Clark’s mantra as it is undoubtedly how he behaves. The former Basketball player imparts wisdom and awareness, in his well mannered, well-traveled account as a fearless storyteller making use of multiple creative mediums, all heartfelt and robust. Ty throws an “engagement party” with his creativity for us all. He’s produced a movie featuring Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and a host of other basketball legends called “JUMP SHOT. “The film uncovers the inspiring true story of Kenny Sailors, the developer of the modern-day jump shot in basketball.
Ty has written a book: “Mervin the Mockumentary: a Short and Brief Introduction of a Momentary Masterpiece.” Mervin Montgomery, who leaves everything behind to make his dreams come true in the New York art world while life hilariously falls apart around him. Along the road, his historical and legendary heroes in art, music, literature, and film arrive to assist his thoughts through random dream sequences. Mervin navigates through his new life in the big city and those he took for granted back home in Texas, using music and memories to process life’s grandest questions. More recently, Ty has mentioned he would love to make an artist retreat, which is a great idea. When I initially discovered his work, his last name and the word super had not occurred to me until after I spoke to him and uploaded the bigger picture mentally. Undoubtedly a super fit. He is brave, he is not afraid to share, and he is willing to be there and make others look good too, with his own strength. A little bit of Twombly, and a lot a bit of who he is, shines through in his work. Happy, melancholy, hopeful. There is beauty blended together in splendid connectivity thoughtfully displayed with love. Telling his story in multiple layers, mediums, and being open to possibility is his superpower. Why walk when you can fly? Why just paint if you can sculpt, why just sculpt when you can make movies, and when all else is exhausted, write with your words or share with a group verbally in person or on podcasts? I have yet to hear the man sing, but you never know!
One of the first things to notice on your website is the quote;“The most important tool the artist fashions through constant practice is faith in his ability to produce miracles when they are needed.” -Mark RothkoFaith and practice aside, how do you personally strive to produce miracles when they are needed? Especially in the climate, we live in today.
TNC- I have found that miracles are often hiding in the thin places. Small places where you don’t often look. I try to stick to a fairly disciplined routine within my art practice. By maintaining this routine and constantly working, I keep my mind away from todays politically divisive climate and focus on my work. My day consists of coffee, reading, studying art, writing, studio, reading/studying art, studio and then fitness. I want to make sure that I am maintaining a high level of mental and physical fitness regularly. I find that miracles often come to fruition within the routine, especially when I am so focused on creating that I am not concerned with the worlds narrative.
You’ve lived in many places, experiencing many cultures. As you try to bring mindfulness and self reflectiveness through your art, what are the most important lessons you have picked up along the way that continue to resonate long after and shape you still?
TNC-There are so many. Here are a few that have really stuck with me.
#1. “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” – Andy Warhol
#2. “No one knows more about your work than you do. Stick to what you know and let it lead you into the things you don’t understand. There’s a Chuck Close quote I remember a professor giving me, stating that ideas come out through the process of making; waiting around for inspiration is unhealthy and counterproductive. You will have those days where you go to your studio and do absolutely nothing, but it’s part of the process. That’s the nature of the beast. Be patient.” – Jacob Broussard
Just make art. Always. Every day. Inspiration is a miracle and only comes in small doses. If inspiration comes to you in the middle of constantly working, something supernatural happens. That is the magic of making art!
Your work channels a lot of emotions and prompts the viewer into a journey of the self. Do you have any habitual rituals before you begin a piece of work or anything that you must have before starting or finishing?
TNC- I spend a lot of time in the ideation stage before starting a body of work. My ritual consists of coming up with a theme for a body of work, then I study, research, read and write about the theme. (This usually takes months) I then create a playlist of music for the series that I feel will influence my thought process while I paint. Then I go to the studio and begin. Sometimes my titles come from the writing or poetry that I journal from my studies or thoughts on the subject. Most of the time I have a story already created through titles before I paint. I finish when the piece feels right, I learned to let the work breathe for a while before coming to a finishing point, otherwise I over work it.
Your works range from canvas, sculpture, wood, movies, writing, etc. How do you decide which medium is best suited for the story you’re creating? Is it random? Do you ever intermingle them in succession to tell a story in chapters of different Medium? Do you wear different emotional hats when you sculpt than when you paint or carve? Is each a different mood?
I usually let the work guide me. Because I am creating a body of work that is telling or sharing a story, I like to use all kinds of medium within a piece to create a narrative. Cloth, pieces of canvas, cement, pastel, pencil, paint, thread, string, yarn, wood, cardboard, and whatever else I can find in my studio. They are all representative of different characteristics or emotions that I am trying to share with an audience. I film everything I do in the studio and create shorts that go with each piece. My goal is to one day incorporate the video pieces within the work in a show. I just haven’t gotten there yet, although I have been sketching ideas for a large interactive installation piece over the last year. I also incorporate text within my work, to provide context within the narrative. Outside of my art practice I am also writing poetry and working on other stories in written form. I just finished my first novel this year and I am already working on my second. I guess the answer is that they all intermingle in one way or the other!
Are there any particular mediums you favor? Talk to me about the texture in your work
TNC-I favor all mediums! Like I said in the last question, they are all representative of emotions or characteristics of the story I am telling within a body of work. I love texture. I want a paintings to come to life on the wall, to be reaching for or pulling away from the viewer. When you are telling a story on a canvas, there needs to be a way to write chapters or develop a story arch within a piece. I am trying to do this with multiple mediums and a building up of layers, creating a vast amount of texture.
What was the first piece of work you created as a 4-year-old? Do you still have it? If you could speak with your 4-year-old self, what advice would you give him and conversely what advice would you take from him?
TNC- The first piece of work that I created as a 4 year old, you did your research! I created a series of animals of imaginary creatures on napkins at the dinner table. I gave them all scientific names and my mom loved them. She took the drawings and created a quilt out of them. Well, she entered the quilt in the California State fair in 1978 and it won First Prize. My mom likes to say that my first art show was at 4 years old! The advice I would give my younger self would be “Keep creating! Don’t ever stop! It is going to be really difficult, but don’t give up.” I am glad I followed my advice:)
On your artist statement and bio, you speak a lot about the internal struggle with the life we create. How do you decide when there are enough “ bread crumbs” (clues) piece of work that will lead a viewer to what you intend? TNC- I think that this is always an experiment. It is easy to know what the viewer sees and feels when I am in the space and they are able to discuss the work with me and hear the ideas behind the work. Over the last few years I have put a lot of effort and thought into this question. I have to continue to take risks with the ideas that hopefully bring these thoughts into fruition for the viewer. I don’t want to give all of the answers to the story, I also need to leave room for the viewer to interpret.
Have you been surprised by someone else’s rendition of your intent? Like, the total antithesis of what you meant?
TNC- This is the beauty of art. In the end, the interpretation is left to the viewer. I can do whatever I want on my end to convey meaning or influence, but the viewer is often going to feel something different. The viewers life, thoughts, and learning process are individual to their character and that will all influence how they view a work of art. Some may take pieces of what I intended, but in the end, they will adapt their thought and emotion into the work and that is beautiful.
You come from a family of artists, is there intentional regard in any of your work for them in any particular pieces?
TNC-My uncle, Conway “Jiggs” Pierson was a world renown sculptor and raku’ artist in Santa Barbara. There absolutely is regard for him in a lot of my work. My lines and certain elements of my work are very representational of ideas and elements throughout his art. If you were to look at his pottery and work, you would see that we are of the same bloodline:)
Talk to me about the texture of your work you feel most at home with?
TNC- This is ever changing. I don’t think I feel completely comfortable with one specific medium. I am always wanting to challenge myself. Will this medium work with this material? What happens if this is added under or on top of this? What relationship do these material’s have with each other? What does this look like from a distance, or up close? How does this photograph? I don’t think I want to feel at home with anything. Then I would get comfortable, and comfort stifles growth.
What lights you up and inspires you?
TNC- That list is pretty extensive! Film, music, poetry, literature, looking at art, discussing art with my artist group “The Unknowns” or discussing art and life with artist friends of mine around the world. Right now studying the lives of my favorite artists lights me up. I have been studying the abstract expressionists, school 1 and school 2 and it makes me want to paint every second of the day! This year musically there are a few things that really get me going. Vivaldi and Max Richters “Recomposing of The Four Seasons”, Yo-Yo Ma’s “Six Evolutions”, Itzhak Perlman’s “Encores”, Strand of Oaks (All of his albums), Bon Iver (anything that Justin Vernon touches) and The Cure (probably my all time favorite band). I just discovered Teho Teardo and Blixa Bargeld (I can’t get enough) and last but not least Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie- they occupy my ears on a regular basis.
Keep the momentum moving Ty, we love your work!
For more information on the movie “Jump Shot” you can visit: www.jumpshotmovie.com which makes it’s red carpet preview this evening in Chicago. it has already won the audience favorite film award in the Heartland Film Festival. SXSW Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Hill Country Film Festival (Audience Award), Detroit Free Press Film Festival, Dead Center Film Festival (Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary 2019), Lone Star Film Festival, Heartland Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival and Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
You can find Ty on Instagram www.instagram.com/