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Alicia 'Saltina' Marie Clark explores her family and tribal history with Fragmentary Stories

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Art can function as an escape from busy lives, a spark for intellectual thought and sometimes as an indication of wealth, but for Alicia “Saltina” Marie Clark, painting functions as the preservation of people, their culture and their stories.

Clark, whose exhibit Fragmentary Stories runs through March 31 at Paseo Art Space, 3022 Paseo St., is a member of the Caddo Hasinai tribe, and she tells stories of her ancestral roots. Although she wasn’t born in Oklahoma, she was raised here and is bringing up her own family here.

“I’m just an Oklahoma Native sharing my ancestral and my own Oklahoma history through my art,” Clark said. “I will be an artist forever, so I hope I continue to inspire and make art people like.”

Alicia “Saltina” Marie Clark’s Fragmentary Stories pull from her family and tribal history while capturing elements of her own life. | Photo The Paseo Arts District / provided
  • Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.
  • Alicia “Saltina” Marie Clark’s Fragmentary Stories pull from her family and tribal history while capturing elements of her own life. | Photo The Paseo Arts District / provided

From the start

Clark discovered her passion for painting when she was a toddler. Drawing came naturally. With a family that loves art and travel, she often visited museums; from a young age, her favorite was Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Early on, she found a book about Caddo tribes living in Oklahoma titled Traditions of the Caddo: Collected Under the Auspices of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Volume 41, written by George Amos Dorsey and published in 1905. Finding the book inspired Clark to mold her art around her ancestors’ antiquated culture, and Clark was surprised to recognize some of the names in the stories.

“I opened it and noticed the name Annie Wilson. That’s my great-great grandmother, and her father Moon-Light also has stories in this book,” Clark said.

Clark’s creative process revolves around observing artifacts related to her Native American ancestors and breathes life back into them with color.

“I research by looking at old photos, old books and old stories,” Clark said. “Then I take in the patterns and colors around me and collaborate them all together.”

She creates characters that embody her ancestors’ legacy using charcoal, graphite, acrylic and latex.

“I like to use charcoal and graphite because I like to draw. I use acrylic and latex for the bright colors,” Clark said.

But she also has a deeper philosophy when choosing mediums.

“I use charcoal and graphite for the hands and faces in my portraits because like our own skin and body they are not permanent,” Clark said. “I use paint, the more permanent of the mediums, for the clothing and other elements.”

She describes her art in one word: layered. From the act of layering charcoal and graphite, acrylics and latex to telling a story about her ancestors and informing about Native American culture, Clark’s work communicates on many levels.

“Our possessions seem to live on longer than our bodies, so I portray that in my work,” Clark said.

Her travels

Clark started traveling at a young age; she began flying out to California to see her grandparents at age 6 and also traveled around the world with her other set of grandparents. Since, travel has had a place in her heart and informs her work.

“Once you step out into a new place with new scenery and different cultures it becomes an addiction,” she said. “The world we live on is a magical place of land forms filled with pockets of diverse people living together with a lot more things in common than you know. Meeting different people and seeing different views and scenery through my travels and hearing their stories has influenced me to tell my own.”

Alicia “Saltina” Marie Clark’s Fragmentary Stories pull from her family and tribal history while capturing elements of her own life. | Photo The Paseo Arts District / provided
  • Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.
  • Alicia “Saltina” Marie Clark’s Fragmentary Stories pull from her family and tribal history while capturing elements of her own life. | Photo The Paseo Arts District / provided

The exhibit

Inspiration for the title Fragmentary Stories resides in the idea of fragments and how Clark’s art evokes an idea from Traditions of the Caddo without capturing the entire story behind it.

“When I paint the stories I only paint the portrait of the characters in them. This is only a fragment of the story they tell,” Clark said.

She also uses old photos as inspiration for her work.

“These old photos only tell me a fragment of the peoples’ story,” Clark said. “So, I combine a small piece of my story with a small piece of their story, creating a fragmentary story.”

To Clark, Fragmentary Stories might not capture the whole picture, but it exposes a part of history in Oklahoma that is not often covered. She combines new and old ideas to create art that preserves her ancestors’ culture and their stories, emphasizing the temporariness of our bodies and the stories that endure after our bodies turn to dust.

Visit thepaseo.org.

Print headline: Painting as preservation; Alicia “Saltina” Marie Clark explores her family and tribal history with Fragmentary Stories. 

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