Brownsville art scene pioneer relocates to Corpus Christi
After more than 13 years of supporting and creating space for Brownsville artists, Mark Clark is following his heart to Corpus Christi.
The painter is clearing out the last pieces of furniture from Galeria 409 as he prepares to sell the building nestled on East 13th Street between Levee and Elizabeth streets. He has opened Mi Vida Loca Gallery in Corpus Christi.
Clark moved to Brownsville in May 2005 and purchased the building the following July.
“It took about a year to turn it into the ruin that it is today,” he said. “They’d even bricked-up doors and windows, and that had to be undone.”
Since then, Clark has hosted countless gallery shows for up-and-coming artists. Galeria 409 became a space not only for art, he said, but for music and political organizing. His efforts preceded the modern push for downtown Brownsville revitalization.
“There was nothing going on downtown except for cantinas, prostitutes and drugs,” Clark said matter-of-factly.
The Brownsville Art League was active, but it tended to attract an older crowd, he added.
“I really tried to encourage younger people to get in and exhibit their work,” Clark said. “Art is all about the exchange of ideas, and if no one sees it, there’s no exchange.”
Among those who got a boost from Clark was Cande Aguilar, whose BarrioPOP exhibit is up at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Rusteburg Art Gallery. He said Clark created opportunities for artists who normally would not be able to show their work in galleries.
“We’re definitely going to miss Mark’s presence in town,” Aguilar said, adding that Clark was a fixture at art shows and openings. “The arts in Brownsville is not a big thing, so the little support you get, you really appreciate.”
The first time the pair met, Aguilar said he felt he had seen Clark somewhere before. It was a few years later Aguilar realized he had seen Clark in a documentary, hanging pieces by the influential American painter Robert Rauschenberg in a gallery.
“That’s such an incredible thing to say that this man was now hanging my art,” Aguilar, who also has work up at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio and is preparing for a show in New York, said of Clark. “I can’t thank him enough for what he contributed to Brownsville and my artwork.”
Paul Valadez, UTRGV associate art professor, said Galeria 409 was not only an outlet for displaying art but for curating it. Clark invited artists to create pieces based on themes, Valadez said, and was open to anyone as long as they had quality work.
“He was really what the area needed, “Valadez said. “It was just a wonderful, wonderful venue to meet other artists and people who enjoyed art.”
As Clark made his mark on the Brownsville art community, so too did the city influence the way Clark approached painting.
“I love the bicultural nature and bilingual nature,” he said. “I was doing still life painting before I got here. The culture was so vibrant, I wanted to be part of it.”
Clark began creating paintings that included calaveras, diablos and ridiculing politicians. He has experimented with Aztec and Mixtec styles, and his work was displayed in a 2015 Mexico City subway show.
“I like that we’re two tectonic plates of culture rubbing together,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing art that could have been made in Berlin or Beijing or Hong Kong. I really enjoy regional Mexican flavors.”
What sparked Clark’s move after over a decade in Brownsville? Love.
He had met girlfriend Tinkerbell Trombley in Corpus Christi years ago, when they were both in relationships. They were both single when they reconnected over lunch in the Sparkling City by the Sea over a year ago. Clark had traveled there for a temporary gig at the Art Museum of South Texas.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” he said. “We fell madly in love.”
Learn more about Clark’s new venture at MiVidaLocaGallery.com or at facebook.com/MiVidaLocaGallery.