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A Chat with Christina Clark, Friend of the USC School of Music

To both lovers and practitioners of the creative arts, disciplines often overlap. For Christina Clark, music and visual art meet in a harmonious intersection.  

In celebration of the Parker Quartet’s complete Beethoven Quartet cycle concert series March 23-30, the University of South Carolina School of Music commissioned Christina Clark, member of the Friends of the School of Music Board of Directors, to create a featured piece for the Cycle’s commemorative poster.  

Clark enjoys a wonderful relationship with the School of Music, consistently supporting its efforts through a variety of genres. She is particularly fond of chamber music. As such, she felt inclined to support the Parker Quartet residency, having seen their growth over the several years she has served on the Board.

For ten years, the Parker Quartet has given audiences a rare musical experience not only through their performances, masterclasses and outreach but, by sharing their time generously to create friendships with students, faculty and members of the community.

— Christina Clark

Clark has been surrounded by the fine arts her entire life. Originally from Austria, she is descended from a family of artists and musicians, including a godfather who was the first chair oboist in the Vienna Philharmonic at one point. Before delving into the world of visual art, Clark played the violin for many years, including with the USC Symphony Orchestra, and now views the sensation of drawing with pastel in a similar light to holding a bow.

“When painting, I very often feel the same sensations and techniques in my fingers, both left and right hands, that were trained by years of practice,” says Clark. “My right arm still wants to move in some of the same ways, and my left hand communicates expression.” Clark delved further into the visual arts during the peak of COVID-19's quarantine period, following along with video demonstrations and instructions to develop and hone her skills.  

A tour of Clark’s home gives keen insight to her workstation: one part recital hall, one part art studio. “Art and music keep me at home,” Clark says, which is an extremely poignant summary of what motivates her to create. A great deal of thought went into the creation of “Quartet Chroma,” the piece featured on the poster. The process of designing “Quartet Chroma” reflects her typical plan for creating something new. She asks herself questions such as, “What feelings should it evoke?” or “What is the inspiration?” or “What is the intention for this piece?” 

“I thought about the viewpoint of a passer-by who unintentionally happens upon the poster in a window,” Clark said. 

What might make them stop for a fleeting moment? I decided the poster had to be bright, fill a clearly defined space — in this case, a square — and look straight at the person viewing it, saying, ‘this is for you.’

— Christina Clark

The piece was created with pastel and acrylic on paper, Clark’s preferred media and surface. She habitually chooses colors first
before putting anything on the paper. As the creative process begins to take shape on the paper, she paints intuitively and is continuously inspired by the colors and how they move together rather than by “objective subjects.” Clark views this phenomenon in conversation with the creation of music as well.

“Since music is movement, and even the silence within music moves, it is natural for me to explore movement in color and abstractChristina Clark with Art shapes,” Clark said. “I am interested in the feelings that colors evoke. If the viewer should care to engage with a painting as an active participant, completing it with a feeling or memory that has meaning for them, that is particularly gratifying. Abstract painting invites that interaction.”  

Clark grounds her brushstrokes and forms with a wash of acrylic that transforms a blank canvas into an invitation for the pastels. The acrylic washes signify where Clark wants depth, space, and/or light to interact with the pigments as they continue to build up until the piece is considered finished. Clark also considers the title of a piece to be one of the most energizing factors while she works on one, but she also acknowledges the risks of pigeonholing herself into one idea to follow the title, or vice versa, and never lets one specific idea block her vision.  

When discussing the concert series and “Quartet Chroma” in conversation, Clark emphasizes that “as an abstract painting, ‘Quartet Chroma’ suggests that Beethoven’s compositions are still relevant to a contemporary ear, caring as he did, about universal and timeless human issues that transcend the European cultures of the 18th and 19th centuries while he lived.” Several of Clark’s additional works, including new ones in the “Chroma” series, will be on display at several of the concert venues for public viewing.  

Clark is not just a prolific artist — despite having only a few years of experience under her belt, she thinks and creates as if she has painted for decades — she is extremely passionate and supportive of the endeavors of Columbia’s cultural landscape, and for the university as well.

“I am proud to support the USC School of Music as a donor,” explains Clark. “Within its breadth and diversity, the School reaches for and achieves standards of excellence.” 

Clark’s commemorative poster is available for purchase for $20 through the School of Music website with proceeds supporting the Chamber Music Residency Fund. 

Parker Quartet 2023 Spring Residency

In celebration of its tenth anniversary as artist-in-residence with The University of South Carolina, the Parker Quartet will perform the complete Beethoven String Quartets over the course of six concerts in a special partnership with Historic Columbia.  All concerts are free, but seating is limited at historic properties. Click here to reserve seats. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.