Transcending limitations; artist who gives broken, unwanted objects new life to speak at chamber luncheon

Composite photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man known for taking discarded objects and turning them into works of art will speak in St. George Wednesday.

Matt Clark tells an audience about his philosophy of taking broken and discarded material and making art out of it, St. George, Utah, April 7, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The St. George Area Chamber of Commerce will feature artist Matt Clark for this month’s “Chamber Inspiration Luncheon.” The luncheon will be held at Courtyard by Marriott from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entry is $15 for chamber members and $20 for nonmembers. Advanced registration is recommended and may be done online at the St. George Chamber of Commerce event registration website.

Throughout his childhood, Clark dreamed of becoming a world champion cowboy, but at age 17 he experienced a serious spinal cord injury. After more than two months in the ICU and six months in spinal rehab, the doctors dismissed him to a rest home and gave him three years to live. Medicine offered him no hope for a future, but Clark said something deep inside him said, “Wait a minute. I am going to define my life.”

Thirty-five years later, he still works from a wheelchair. Clark’s physical limitations have required him to create his own tools and processes for doing things, but his accident also gave him the opportunity to recreate himself and his world. This is perhaps expressed best by the inscription on his sculpture, “The Healer,” displayed at the Craig Hospital Healing Garden in Denver, Colorado. The inscription states:

My body has been broken and may not heal, but my spirit can and will transcend my limitations.

Sculpture by Matt Clark, featured artist of the 37th Annual St. George Art Festival, St. George, Utah, March 25, 2016 | File photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

The metal objects he uses in his art were originally created to perform a specific function. At some point, they outlived their usefulness, were broken and lost their value. Clark surrounds himself with them and asks the question, “What is the best purpose for this object?” He then “resurrects” these discarded parts for use in his sculptures.

Read more: Beauty from broken things, featured artist Matt Clark

For Clark, the transformation of these objects is symbolic of his own journey — of ultimately transcending broken dreams and heartache. Clark’s artistic process is a reenactment of his life journey.

“Powerful art is spiritual,” Clark said in a statement. “It invites us to internalize and interact — to put ourselves into the journey rather than merely observe someone else’s story. My purpose as an artist is not to create things of beauty, but to uncover essence. I don’t focus on holding up mirrors of life; I express interpretations of life through universal symbols.”

Event details

  • What: Chamber Inspiration Luncheon featuring Matt Clark.
  • When: Wednesday, Aug. 1, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Where: Courtyard by Marriott, 185 S. 1470 East St., St. George.
  • Admission: $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers. Advance registration is recommended and may be done online at the St. George Chamber of Commerce event registration website.

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