Utilizing a combination of folk art methods with contemporary painting dialogue, Clark Derbes transforms locally felled tree trunks into fine art objects. With a beautiful montage of pattern and dimension, he outwits the eyeball and begs the viewer to ask, “What am I seeing?”
He became inspired to work with wood when he discovered - and subsequently purchased - a giant poplar tree cut down by an arbor crew. He offered the crew $20 for the tree and soon after had it delivered by a crane to his studio, where he began carving it with a chainsaw.
Using the natural growth of the tree as his guide, Derbes uses a carving technique called bas-relief to create shallow cuts into the wood for dimension, then smoothing the surface with a power sander. Once the shaping process is complete, Derbes hand paints the polygons. He applies a polymer gouache and employs a multi-dimensional painting technique called trompe l'œil (a French term that means "to fool the eye") to exaggerate their physical appearance. Each piece is then signed with a wood-burning tool. The finished results are puzzling, interesting pieces that honor the American traditions of resourcefulness, frugality, and beauty. All of his work is done by hand without the aid of measuring or masking.
A multimedia artist, Derbes was born in New Orleans, LA and received his B.F.A. at Louisiana State University. He has been featured in solo exhibitions locally as well as nationally in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Vermont, Rhode Island and Washington. He has been featured in the Boston Globe, Art New England, Country Roads, The Advocate, New Orleans Defender and Art Map Burlington. Derbes has also collaborated to develop public art in Baton Rouge, including the first mural commissioned by The Walls Project.