ST. GEORGE - Matt Clark has been welding together metal scraps to create sculptures for years now. His ability to turn junky pieces of steel into breathtaking works of art is nothing short of amazing. His story is one of perseverance, as Clark only looks at his inability to walk as a minor inconvenience.
DocUtah is a favorite event among Southern Utah locals and people looking to get away from cinematic fiction. It’s the perfect showcase for true stories on the silver screen, produced by anyone from student filmmakers to Hollywood veterans. It’s also been a solid tourist hot spot for out-of-towners due to its content and geographical location; hence its slogan, “Come for the films, stay for the scenery.”
This week, as DocUtah is in full play, Clark’s story will be unpacked for the public through the screening of “Pieces of the Soul,” directed by Spencer Sullivan.
I caught up with Clark, the subject of the DocUtah feature, “Pieces of the Soul,” as well as the director of the film, Spencer Sullivan. Let’s see what they had to say:
Tell us a little bit about the film.
SULLIVAN: Well, it’s about the life of Matt Clark, but it’s more than that. It gets into the symbolism of his life and how Matt has defined his own life.
What led you to choose Clark as a subject for your documentary?
SULLIVAN: I had a few different ideas in mind, and while I was thinking of them, I met Matt while hanging out with his niece. After the first day of meeting him, it was like we were old friends, and I was really impressed by this big spider in his front yard that he had made out of metal and stone. I heard a little bit about Matt and some of the funky sculptures he had made; and seeing him in a wheelchair, I knew there had to have been a story there.
Matt, what inspired you to take on this unusual form of art?
CLARK: It actually happened by accident. I was a self-taught welder starting at 15. After my injury at 17, I picked up the welder a few years later and had to create new techniques and even new tools to make up for the limitations I had. My real fascination was welding. Years later, I saw some pieces of scrap metal and thought,“Those are pretty cool shapes,” and eventually welded together a dinosaur. People liked it. So I decided to try it a little bit more, never thinking I would become an artist.
And you’re still making new pieces?
CLARK: Oh yeah! I’ll quit at my funeral.
Where can we find your art?
CLARK: Worthington Gallery in Springdale, Ancestor’s Square, Anasazi (on Sunset Blvd.). I also show out of my studio by appointment.
Spencer, is there something you hope people walk away with, after seeing your film?
SULLIVAN: Yeah, I hope people realize that no matter what challenges or difficulties that they have, they can still move forward with their life and accomplish their dreams. I think Matt has been a good example of that. Maybe some of us think we have it bad, but we really determine what kind of life we’re going to live.
Do you have a favorite piece of Matt’s?
SULLIVAN: Probably the Pony just because it’s so rich with symbolism. As we created this film, it’s kind of been the core piece in mind. Just all those broken pieces, around 800, that he used to create this almost life sized horse. I’m just fascinated by it. He actually has a heart in the middle of it that you can’t see unless you get up close and look into it.
Since you’ve started this film, have you ever attempted to create this type of art?
SULLIVAN: (Laughs) He’s actually offered to teach me, but I’ve only had one welding experience in my life and it didn’t go very well. I need to have him teach me, I guess.
If there were a younger artist interested in pursuing this art form, what tips would you have for them?
CLARK: There’s different steps to take. They would need to learn the execution and process. They’d need to become proficient at welding, grinding, and shaping. Of course there is the capital investment for tools. I have actually had eight apprentices over the years; three have gone off and started their own businesses. If they’re real serious, they should find a mentor.
Do you plan on doing anymore filmmaking after this?
SULLIVAN: Yes, it has been a longtime dream and goal so I’m definitely not going to stop.
Like Matt with his art?
SULLIVAN: (Laughs) Exactly.
Check out their new film, “Pieces of the Soul,” on September 8 at 8 p.m. at the Red Cliffs Cinema in theater 4.
For a complete list of films and screen times head to DocUtah’s website.
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