By Alyson Wong
Every so often we are lucky to encounter someone who has managed the feat of remaining undeniably themselves.
With his signature inches-high slicked back pompadour (like a cool modern-day cassowary bird), classic angular, black-rimmed Wayfarer glasses, punk rock high-top Chuck Taylor sneakers and vibrantly colored tattoos peeking out from cuffed pants and rolled up sleeves, Clam Lynch is one such person.
Both his way of showing up in the world and his paintings fuse seeming contradictions of otherworldliness and groundedness, loose experimentation and considered precision, as well as chaos and harmony with an ever-present undercurrent of warmth and meaning that continue to captivate many.
His well-received gallery show titled, “The Art of Clam Lynch,” opened on Dec. 17 at the 4 Star Theater’s newly unveiled art gallery. It is open to the public until an undetermined date in February. The show includes 17 custom paintings which emanate with Lynch’s signature style incorporating bright bold primary colors and surrealist and spiritual undertones mixed with a vintage cartoonish influence.
His works range in size from a three-inch-by-three-inch piece like “Wolf Bulb,” featuring a wolf wearing a top hat inside a lightbulb surrounded by archetypal symbols, to taller works like “Good Morning Moose” with a prismatic moose figure. At the time of writing, around half of the works have sold with 100% of the proceeds going to the artist – the theater doesn’t take a cut. Lynch has chosen to dedicate a portion of the proceeds to support Babylon Burning, a much-loved 45-year family legacy-owned and locally operated screen-printing business that experienced a recent fire at its SoMa shop.
Lynch is a self-taught artist. His process is uniquely his own. He prefers acrylic and varnish and paints on furnished maple box frames (which he makes himself) for their smooth surfaces. Lynch often works on three paintings at a time which he lays on the ground while working on his knees so that he can “really look at them.”
Lynch often begins with an image idea which he sources from dreams (he has a journal by his bed to jot down notes), his magazine stack archive or the oddities of daily life. The end result is not known to him when he starts, but once settled on a starting image element, he surrenders to the process by adding or painting over elements as a way of feeling his way through.
Lynch has had many interesting chapters in his life which have preceded his current successful art career and artistic evolution.
He grew up in Maine and left his home due to a chaotic home life when he was 15 years old. Wanting to see the world, he moved to New York’s Lower East Side with some older kids during the late 1970s, which he remembers as very dangerous at the time. As a punk rock kid, he cut his teeth selling vintage clothes on the street in Tompkins Square Park and formed a makeshift family with other younger runaways. After a night of hard partying, two performance artists took him in and introduced him to the world of art. Thus began his performance art career.
He went on to perform at New York institutions, such as The Kitchen, creating larger-than-life zany colorful installation costumes to go with his performances. Supported by performance art grants, he also traveled to Japan to tour his acts not long after. His performance work morphed into the entertainment world when he and a collaborator, Stephen Holman, were approached by Nickelodeon to develop and act in the live action television shows, “Life with Loopy” and “The Shrimpskins.”
Just like a painting, many experiences were brushed onto the canvas of Lynch’s life. In the 1990s through 2000s he added another layer by moving to Los Angeles to work as a music video production designer for numerous musical clients, such as Metallica, R.E.M., The Smashing Pumpkins and the list goes on. Constantly evolving and bringing his creative ideas to new endeavors and mediums, he even authored and developed characters for the popular children’s gothic book with a twist, “Ruby Gloom’s Keys to Happiness.”
Lynch later created his own solo shows, notably “Cut The Crap,” where he performed as a comedic motivational speaker. The show even featured Roseanne Barr. After a time living in Utah and dedicating time to teach art to youth, today he lives with his wife Margo in San Francisco and is the proud father of a daughter, Eloise. In addition to painting, he and his wife sell vintage clothing gems through Wonderland Vintage.
Lynch translates the unseen into reimagined compositions with unique style. His name itself, Clam, is rare, one that stuck after he took on the moniker around 13 years of age instead of his given name, James. His paintings are similar to his arrangement of tattoos, the content of which are many, colorful and unapologetic, but notably all symmetrical on his body, except for a large diamond in the center of his chest. His work and life possess a rare quality of both unrestrained eccentricity and balanced grace. The world is made better for the playful innovative ethos that Lynch offers through his art, and he hopes his work can continue to “make people happy and touch them in a way that makes them smile, think and move them in some way.”
• Clam Lynch art website: clamlynchart.com
• Clam Lynch social media: @clamlynch
• Babylon Burning screen printing shop: babylontee.com
• 4 Star Theater: 4-star-movies.com
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