When asked to put on a show, Penticton’s Glenn Clark always has the same answer.
“(Vernon’s Headbones Gallery) asked me if would be able to put a show together and I said ‘well of course’,” Clark said.
He received a similar call nearly two years ago from the Kelowna Art Gallery, who commissioned his table hockey-inspired piece, Best of Seven, to the Kelowna airport last year, and the agreeable artist always faces up to a challenge.
“It’s always the same, I say ‘oh yeah I can do it’,” said Clark. “I did the table hockey piece and everyone wanted to see the parts moving. So I started scratching my head and said OK, let’s do something here, so the interactive kinetic parts started.”
A year later, Clark’s love letter to an era of hockey, entitled Wackem Sackem, is getting packed up in his home studio in Penticton and ready to be shipped to Headbones Gallery for its debut on Friday.
His pieces pop out of two dimensional space using depth and moving parts to transport the audience back to some of the best-photographed moments in hockey history. Moments including Dave “the Hammer” Schultz and Brad Park during first period of Game 3 in the 1974 Stanley Cup semifinals (with Schultz’s wailing fist fully moveable), or Tim Horton and Jean Béliveau racing for the puck.
“This is artwork about the era when I grew up. These guys didn’t wear helmets. They seemed to be more accessible. You meet the NHL-ers now and they give you the duck and roll,” said Clark.
His work romanticizes an era, but Clark said the violence of the game is not necessarily the focus. Instead he is fascinated by the rivalries and stories to come out of that time period, and it is a trip through memory lane for the long-time hockey fan.
“Then you got Béliveau. If you ever wrote him a letter, he would write you back and send you a photograph with an autograph, just a real class guy. The guys were a bit different then,” said Clark, who watched Béliveau’s funeral along with many Canadians on Dec. 10.
“I grew up watching that guy. I was a young lad and I remember when I was 11 and he was in his final year quite well,” Clark said. “I can remember once watching a clip of Béliveau skating down the ice and he did a stick-handle move and it was like an alien or something.”
With a stack of nearly 20 books under his work bench filled with hockey photos, Clark is not at all overwhelmed when deciding which moments to recreate.
“It’s kind of like shopping, I think,” he said.
Once he gets an idea of what he wants to do, Clark makes a draft and takes it across the alley to his neighbour, and blacksmith, Mike Turley.
“I come up with the paper models and say ‘Mike, does it work?’ and he says yes or no, and if he says no then we argue to death, and sometimes build them anyways,” Clark said. “It’s been a partnership in many ways across the back alley.”
As soon as the Headbones Gallery exhibit was confirmed, Clark got to work straight away building the three interactive goalies.
“Last January it was -20C and I was outside with the grinder starting to cut the metal, snot was pouring out of my nose, and my neighbours must be thinking ‘what the heck is Clarkie doing?’,” he said.
Clark wasn’t sure where the project was going to go from there; at one point it was going to be all goalies, but he was tempted to capture more scenes from his favourite hockey moments.
Clark said his show is going to be like hockey in many ways, with metal clanking, moving parts and an encouragement for the audience to get up close and personal with the work.
“It’s a trip to the sin bin is what it’s going to be,” said Clark. “It’s going to be a noisy show.”
Best of Seven will be set up once again, minus the glass sheet that was up during its stint at the Kelowna airport, allowing people to get more intimate with the work.
Clark has been showing his pieces in group shows at Headbones Gallery for the last five years, but this is the first time an exhibit will be entirely his own. Having his show follow Ann Kipling, who has shown her works at the National Gallery, is a point of pride for Clark.
“That’s who I’m following. That’s the kind of gallery this is. It’s a big honour to be asked to put a show together up there,” Clark said.
He hasn’t thought ahead to what’s next, but Clark shows no signs of slowing down as the one-of-a-kind pieces get easier to make with practise.
“As I’m building these sculptures I’m finding more and more solutions on how to build them,” said Clark, adding, “It will be worth your while if you like hockey and want to bring a smile to your face. There’s a lot of surprises and a lot of fun in this show. (I’m) bringing fun back into the art world.”
Also opening in Headbones’ Drawers Gallery is David Wilson’s Sookinakin Beats.
An opening reception with Clark takes place Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. Headbones is located at 6700 Old Kamloops Rd. The exhibition will be up until Feb. 8. Call 250-542-8987 for info.