I met Darren Clack when I was a student in Oxford, England. There was a delightful old-world pub I used to visit, along with my pal, Julie who was also from Florida and also a student. It was there we first enjoyed a room-temperature beer with Darren. Darren was local to the Village, worked in concrete construction, and was utterly charming. Julie and Darren hit it off especially well and I went back to my studies. Who could have predicted the future?
After graduation I moved home to Goodland. Later, my friend Julie would join me. And still later, Darren joined Julie. And that, my friends, is how Goodland, Florida became home to concrete-worker-turned-artist Darren Clack.
Thirty years in the concrete industry gave Darren plenty of opportunity to explore the artistic possibilities of a material primarily known for its suitability to the industrial and building trades. Compelled by a natural interest in the arts, Darren methodically experimented with adding pure-pigments (as opposed to established dyes and stains) and an assortment of materials including colored glass, bits of mirror,beads, tile, stones, and an assortment of recycled “bits and pieces.” His efforts now delightfully demonstrate a near-limitless versatility to his medium of choice.
“I like to think my work challenges the aesthetic interpretation of materials,” Darren says, “and maybe subverts expectations about what art should be.”
The process is time and labor-intensive. A mould/form is constructed; a design is painstakingly glued into place, piece by piece; the concrete is prepared, carefully poured, then left to cure. After the mould is removed a fine slurry is poured to fill in any tiny gaps and bubbles. Then comes at least a dozen separate grindings and polishings until a surface of rich, marble-like opulence is achieved.
So, just what does Darren create out of all these creative concrete mixtures? What doesn’t he make is a better question. Vases, book-ends, jewelry (jewelry!), benches, tables, planters, bowls, wall-hangings, stepping-stones, custom mosaic tiles – really, they don’t give me enough space to list all he’s come up with.
One of Darren’s proudest moments was the role of trans-Atlantic consultant with his daughter, Hayley, on a project forthe Speakers Corner Trust in Walthamstow, England. “The Speakers Corner Trust” explains Darren, “is an international registered charity which promotes free expression, public debate, and active citizenship as a means of revitalizing civil society in the UK, and supporting it’s development in emerging democracies. Hayley and her group chose concrete as the material for their design, Stepping Stones to the Community. It was brilliant.”
You can schedule an appointment to visit Darren’s workshop behind the home he shares with his wife, Julie, in Goodland (tell me you saw that coming) or you catch him at the drafting table in his studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade. You’ll find him friendly, informative, and ever eager to discuss new ideas.
Contact Darren at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out his blog site www.darrenclack.wordpress.com. I also recommend a visit to www.speakerscornertrust.org/speakers-corner-projects/uk-projects/waltham-forest
Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through www.taraogallery.com.