patricia houghton clarke
Review: Rita Ferri, Visual Arts Coordinator
…I have seen Clarke’s exhibition work over the years and have always been surprised by the breadth of her subject matter and how each body of work carries her poetic vision. Patricia is a photographer who is deeply committed to the global community as well as the visual documentation of life around her. After many years of travel, her work has become strong and meaningful and has a life beyond the print on the gallery wall. The work is compassionate, well composed and visually interesting. People want to know more about what she has seen through her lens. I have never known a person whose persona is so gentle and so quiet, yet, whose entire life speaks so loudly and assuredly of how art changes how we see the world.

I have worked in the non-profit gallery and contemporary art world for over 25 years as an educator, writer and curator and can honestly say I look forward to each new compelling body of work. I know I will be drawn into her world and changed by it.”

Rita Ferri
Visual Arts Coordinator
Curator of Collections
Santa Barbara County Arts Commission
Photographer's Forum
Black & White Magazine
High Quality, Lo-fi Photography
Lightleaks Magazine
THE Magazine of and for the Arts
Casa Magazine
Montecito Journal
Santa Barbara Independent
Santa Barbara Magazine
Santa Barbara News Press
Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine

Santa Barbara-connected photographers explore time and place in Brooks Show
Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara News Press February, 2012

Respected Santa Barbara-connected photographers Jesse Alexander and Patricia Houghton Clarke may operate in different circles, use different methods and materials and have wielded their cameras in different eras and parts of the world. But, as seen in the fine two-person Brooks Institute Gallery show "Observations; time + place," what they have in common - and what makes them ripe "show fellows" - is a certain allegiance to the implication of the show's title, and its metaphorical math equation.

Through their sensibilities and lenses, time + place = empathetic atmospherics. Deftly blending the concerns of photojournalism and fine art photographer, the photographers live up to the phrase used in curator Crista Dix' statement, as "creative documentarians."

Clarke's travels and various pockets of interest have been given a forum around the art spaces in town over the past several years. Within the range of a few disparate locales in this particular show, we get the sense of the peripatetic Clarke's flexible, sensitive take on the world. She brings different visual angles to each task. From a visit to the former East Berlin, around Friedrichstrasse, she shows a series of effectively stark, grainy and form-conscious images of structures, conveying the still slightly time-frozen ambience of the zone and its lingering post-Berlin Walled mystique.

Quite by contrast, her humanity-infused images of older villagers are as warm and sensuous as the Berlin pictures are cool and graced with a detached elegance. One strangely alluring image from her Italian group is "Passiona tu Cristu, Italy," which captures a sense of Catholic ritual by means of an oblique angle, with a cleric in mottled shadow behind a tree. It's an enigmatic image befitting an aura of religiosity, viewed with respect rather than artistic and/or agnostic irony.

Meanwhile, Clarke's Asian series follows yet another varied expressive road. Images from this global region range from the Coca-Cola meets far eastern urbanity in Tokyo to a translucent curtain-veiled subject in "Sanctuary, Tokyo." A calmly-presented homage to the tsunami tragedy in Thailand is telegraphed through the once-removed presence of photographs on a wall, in a half fuzz-focused composition, a simple image but one steeped in the dazed aftermath of calamity...In this series...time and place are duly noted and preserved, and a certain extra dimensional x factor is achieved."
THE FLAT FILE - wall space Gallery
One of the first photographers I met shortly after my arrival was Patricia Houghton Clarke. Committed, passionate and involved in her work as well as the community that surrounds her, she is in constant motion. Her subject is the human condition, I know, I know, art speak….but she throws herself into a subject I can appreciate and explore alongside her. Passion. It is all about who we are in that moment we decide to take that leap of faith, of being. To commit. To ourselves, to others. External, internal through our actions, artifice, ritual both grand and small.

Erasing Lines is the story of a cross culture found all over the world, and Patricia focuses her lens on Santa Barbara. In 2008, she started documenting the local drag culture, following the people, performances and how they shared their lives with each other and the public. This series is about acceptance, about the ability to be comfortable in your own skin. The girls opened their homes, their lives, and let Patricia in. While there are a few images of their performances, what I am attracted to is the intimacy between photographer and subject. How many of us would allow a camera into our bathroom to document our dressing? I can’t imagine many. Certainly not me. Humanity exposed. In a beautiful way...

Patricia’s work transcends the boundaries often discussed between the traditional divisions of “documentary” or “fine art” photography. Her work grabs us, makes us think, using grace and beauty to make a point.

Expanding on the narrative and creativity of Patricia’s vision of the broader topic of passion, the gallery is pleased to showcase another of Patricia’s projects looking into the emotional realm of humanity, and of being. She recently completed a residency in a small Italian village this past April. The result of that time is a stunning body of work, Comunione. The work is deeply personal, bridging ideas of faith, passion and spirit...In her words – ”Ancient Pagan, Greek and Roman chants joined my inner chorus of Buddhist bells, Saharan minaret calls, Hindu, Animist and Celtic rituals experienced in disparate lands and cultures.”

Crista Dix, wall space Gallery

SB Independent/Brett Leigh Dicks

It’s a typical afternoon on State Street. A mix of locals and visitors amble along the sidewalk gleefully burdened with bags bearing the designer labels of their contents while others inhabit the restaurants and coffee shops that line either side of the downtown thoroughfare. But on this particular day, it’s not the snake handler or a live animal pyramid that are soliciting the public’s attention;it’s three majestic figures waltzing through the throng turning heads. While pretty people might not be that unusual for Santa Barbara, the realization that these lovely ladies were actually men was certainly turning most heads.


THE Magazine
Los Angeles

"Patricia Clarke is returning to the photographic scene in Santa Barbara after her successful "Correspondences" show in the fall of 2007 with a new collection of images from Italy shot between 2005 - 2007. Again using her Holga camera to create strong and visually complex single, double and triple images, her photographs tell heartfelt stories of her beloved Italia."

Sentimento: Immagini d'Italia
Ted Mills Santa Barbara News Press, November, 2008

...Clarke moved into the Holga through 35mm, and not as a reaction against digital. She has since begun working in digital, but it's the wait-and-see attitude of film, and the 12 shots per roll that the Holga allows that she loves. "It slows my process down a lot," she says. "I went on a trip to Chicago armed with only my Holga and two rolls of 12...I wanted to see if I could return with the essence of the trip." Which, she says, she did.

Similar things can be said of her photographs, some of which are in-camera triptychs and diptychs, created by advancing the film only four-fifths of the way, letting the images overlap. This technique gives some of Clarke's views of Italian piazzas, courtyards and alleyways an Escher-like confusion of perspectives....
SENTIMENTO: Review/Casa Magazine - November, 2008
By Devon Pettengill

Capturing more than just the split second when the shutter opens and closes, Patricia Houghton Clarke's photographs convey a deeper experience of the subject...."There is a certain energy you pick up from things you photograph," Clarke shared. "It's like you're channeling it, like you're experiencing your subject on a much deeper level."

Clarke is a self-taught photographer who has been a visual artist all her life...(she) has an emotional connection to Italy, and her upcoming exhibit is an opportunity for her to discuss without words the culture and beauty of the country where she once lived. One of the themes of Clarke's work is to connect people to communities outside their own....Previous series of her photographs have featured Thailand, Laos, and the drag culture within the Santa Barbara community...."
Sentimento: Immagini d'Italia - Colin Marshall
SB Independent, November 20, 2008

There don't appear to be many common traits between the photographs of Santa Barbara's Patricia Houghton Clarke and those of her grandfather, Herbert Houghton Clarke - at least at first glance....Clarke's latest show dedicates one wall to the work of the elder...But observe the shadow and light; there's clearly a serious eye behind the compositions. There's a real sense of humor as well, and judging by the rest of the show, these qualities are indeed inherited.

...What's genuinely intriguing here is when Clarke puts her Holga camera to less conventional use....Clarke also exhibits (and builds on) her grandfather's eye for just the right quirk....the subtly comical tableau is tough for any photographer to pull off, but the Clarkes, with their dreamlike images, do it quite respectably.
CORRESPONDENCES: Worldly Words, poetic images
Photographer Patricia Clarke's images of Laos, Thailand are explored by poet Ellen Chavez Kelley in 'Correspondences'
By Josef Woodard Santa Barbara News Press, 11/23/07

As good as the concept might sound on paper, images and texts don't always get along in an art context. The intentions and modes of inference of visual art differ enough from the language of words that attempts to bring them together into a whole larger than their parts can spell trouble.

Happily, the image-text twain do meet - and beautifully - in the exhibition aptly named "Correspondences"...Sensitive photographs and photo composites by Patricia Clarke are graced by evocative and understated poems by Ellen Chavez Kelley, and together, they create a symbiotic entity built on the interactive strengths of each contributor.

More than one meaning can be drawn from the exhibition title itself. Photographer Clarke embarked on a journey to Laos and Thailand in 2006, with the low-tech Holga camera. She proposed a collaborative project with the poet, and corresponded while on her travels. Upon returning, Kelley responded to Clarke's photographs with poems.

From the evidence here, most of them capture just the right degree of geographical and cultural data amidst the impressionistic word paintings...the photographer and poet collectively affirm the similar effect of the ir mediums: both are about compacting information and distilling essences, suggesting broad ideas in a creative flash.

It helps, too, that Clarke herself relies on a poetic visual sensibility, in terms of composition, the Hockney-esque stitchery of her composite images, and the unique quality produced by the Holga....For Clarke's almost Cubist-style, multi-image portrayal of a jungle river, Kelley supplies this imagery expanding poem: "River pretending to be a brown snake ribbons/and twists between trees./Riding his shining back my/boat drifts on a serpentine whim."

...What ultimately emerges from the combined efforts here is a loose portrait of far-away, presumably "exotic" places, which come alive in a new way here. Photojournalism is not the point, although reportage does play a role in the project. Rather, it's a reinventive tribute to another place, graced by imagination, and compassion - not to mention the well-turned phrase and well-aimed lens.
November 15, 2007
SB Independent/ Stephen T. Vessels

"When Patricia Clarke volunteered, in 1979, to teach English to Hmong immigrants living in Isla Vista, she never envisioned that, 28 years later, she would photograph an impoverished Hmong village in the remote hinterlands of Laos. The photographs she took, now on show at the Architectural Foundation Gallery, form one half of an unusual and powerful artistic collaboration between Clarke and her close friend, poet Ellen Kelley.

... An exhibit of 17 photographs Clarke took in Southeast Asia coupled with poems Kelley wrote in response to them...reverberate with personal trials and the pains of a troubled world, but they are also infused with an attitude of gentle acceptance...."

To read review on Independent website: here.
Casa Magazine
November 2, 2007
I. MurphyLewis, Ph.D.

"Two of Santa Barbara's own artists: photographer, Patricia Clarke and poet, Ellen Chavez Kelley are inspired by one another, swept into the swirl of corresponding imagery. As Clarke traipses through Laos and Thailand, Holga camera in hand capturing the chaotic collision of ancient civilizations and post-modern globalization, Kelley receives the lilting images and transforms them into poetic words. Through their intimate exchange, we find ourselves there, standing on the edge of the Mekong, hand in hand with Clarke and Kelley...both poet and photographer capture this world where old collides, then merges with new. Collaboratively, their images restore hope in humanity, its richness, its resiliency. Author Paul Hawken affirms their view: "In the chaos engulfing the world, a hopeful future resides because the past is disintegrating before us......"
Artistic Correspondents
SB Independent - 10/11/08
Perie Longo

"Thirty years ago, two women met in a childcare co-op, and struck up a friendship....
Their work together has spanned space as well as time; while Patricia Clarke traveled extensively to photograph images in Europe, Africa, Israel, South America, and Asia, Ellen Chavez Kelley remained in Southern California...

... Something in Clarke’s “surreal, dreamlike images” called to Kelley. Then, in 2006, Clarke went to Thailand and Laos. When she returned, Kelley found the new direction for her poetry she had been looking for...

In entering someone else’s world, Kelley said, “We can become more awake, both individually and collectively, to those places within ourselves we all come from. My poems were like a doorway to hope..." for more, go to :
ALL WORK, SOME PLAY - Local photographers capture a slice of work life in exhibit*
Essential Worker
Josef Woodard, SBNP 04/11/08

Exhibitions landing at the Channing Peake Gallery, nestled in the ground floor of the County Administration Building downtown, have often tended to be more socially-charged than other quarters of the art-for-art's-sake scene in town. That tendency reaches a new high with a new show called "The Essential Worker," a model show in terms of satisfying the interests of art, reportage and social commentary from the streets where we live....

For Patricia Clarke, the construction job site offers a fascinating source of personalities and faces, sometimes obscured by masks, but generally posed and aware of the camera's probing eye..."
PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION Celebrates Santa Barbara's Workforce
Santa Barbara Independent
March 6, 2008
Darian Bleecher

... In The Essential Worker, 10 regional photographers capture images of laborers in the service industry and trades, those whose tasks include keeping us housed, safe, and fed....Patricia Clarke, whose background in construction and design inspired her coverage of construction workers, said "The reaction I saw on their faces was - 'Wow - you noticed me?' Construction workers...are so taken for granted, though they're creating where we live and work....."