Classically trained British-American sculptor, collector, art advisor, educator and children’s book author Natalie Clark practices the global language of art.
“I think as an artist you create your own language,” she said.
With two studios — one in a converted church in Tetonia, Idaho, and another in a 13th-century masia in the Catalonian foothills north of Barcelona — the artist says she is drawn to big raw natural landscapes.
So when the call for artists went out for the second annual “Forever Is Now” exhibition in Cairo, the sculptor couldn’t resist the lure of bringing her aesthetic of globally fused design and ethnographic style to one the most significant historic sites in the world: the Pyramids of Giza.
Forever Is Now erects contemporary public art against the backdrop of some of the oldest public art in the world. The project is managed by Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, founder of Art D’Égypte.
An art show on a site known for its antiquities requires more paperwork than most exhibits, but, Clark said, getting 2.5 tons of Corten steel and Carrara marble to Egypt was at least as complicated as getting her design approved for the exhibit.
“The whole of the Giza plateau is run by the Ministry of Antiquities and the Department of Tourism and the military,” she said. “So the whole area is just all red tape. All of the materials for your sculpture get imported in, but you cannot disturb anything, either. You have to use an Egyptian shipping company or it’s never going to get there. One artist’s light installation is still sitting in customs because she didn’t go through the system.”
The larger pieces of Clark’s work were fabricated in England, and the marble was shipped to the Port of Alexandria.
The sculpture is quite minimal, with three sections interlocking to create a suspended silhouette representing the Egyptian goddess Hathor. The 30-by-30-foot base had to be able to withstand sandstorms while also meeting requirements that the sculpture not penetrate the ground, lest it count as the fourth section.
Clark describes herself as an artist who honors the “divine feminine,” which seems to have made working in the ancient landscape an organic process.
The goddess Hathor is found in ancient Egyptian creation myths. She is the daughter of Ra and the mother of Horus — a complex goddess and one of extreme significance as a mother figure protecting the Earth.
Erecting her goddess in the Middle Eastern desert, Clark did not shy away from the current political climate.
“This is the power of woman,” she said, “one of the most beloved Egyptian deities representing femininity and beauty and breastfeeding and drunkenness. But let’s face it: This is in the Middle East. And it’s really bold of me, but some little girl, some father’s grandmother, women are connecting with the piece.”
Given the size of the installation and the size of the pyramids, it’s impossible to not experience some kind of dialogue with some kind of entity, be it the art, Egyptian history or personal reflection.
“This is the bedrock of mankind,” she said. “It’s something so magical. And this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s entirely taking public art to the next level. I mean, who gets to put a piece of sculpture in front of the pyramids, the most prominent public art in the world?”
Not surprisingly, the art event has drawn worldwide attention. Clark said half a million visitors came through for the inaugural exhibit last year.
Clark’s The Spirit of Hathor is on exhibition at the UNESCO World Heritage Site until Nov. 30, along with work by 11 other artists: Therese Antoine, Mohammad Alfaraj, Emilio Ferro, Zeinab AlHashemi, JR, Ahmed Karaly, Liter of Light, eL Seed, SpY, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Jwan Yosef.
Clark said she has an upcoming Wyoming project under development. Followed her at NatalieClark.com. ￼