Carolina Art Crush: Martha Clippinger

We are so excited to introduce you to Martha Clippinger, a somewhat recent transplant to North Carolina who we are thrilled to claim as our latest Carolina Art Crush. We love Martha’s colorful, dynamic works and can’t wait to see what comes out of her upcoming summer projects/residencies. But for now, we’ll have to settle on seeing a few works at a group show opening this Thursday at SECCA, 12 x 12: 12 Artists from the 12th State.

Martha with natural dyes 2014.jpeg

Martha Clippinger creating natural dyes at Tlapanochestli cochineal farm, Santa Maria Coyotepec, Oaxaca, 2014

HappeningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words?
Martha Clippinger: Chromophilic, resourceful, lucky

HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?
MC: Colors, shapes, textures, forms, and a sense of play.

At an early age, while growing up in Columbus, GA, Alma Thomas’ (Columbus native) paintings and Eddie Owens Martin’s Pasaquan in Marion County, GA introduced me to the power of color and inspired me to paint abstract shapes and patterns.

Craft has also provided much inspiration, particularly with regard to textiles where geometry and colors are at play. I fell in love with the Gee’s Bend quilts when I first saw them in 2003. Their shifting blocks of color inspired early paintings of mine and later inspired sewn works and an investigation of color using the “readymade colors” of fabrics.

Mexico has also played a major role. I’ve made numerous visits since 2004, and in 2014, I spent nine months learning about the indigenous textiles traditions of Oaxaca. But it’s more than just the textiles that engage me. The light, the colors, the people, and the sophisticated geometries of ancient sites such as Monte Alban and Mitla will forever inspire me. For years, I’ve been interested in Josef and Anni Albers relationship with Mexico and was delighted to finally see his travel photos in person at the Guggenheim exhibition “Albers in Mexico” last December.

I’m also inspired by artists whose aesthetic expands across media and permeates into aspects of daily life. Artists such as Sophie-Tauber Arp and Sonia Delaney, and designers such as Alexander Girard and Charles and Ray Eames are a few examples. I find joy in their creations and hope to make both artworks and utilitarian objects that embody a similar exuberance.

untitled 2017

Martha Clippinger, Untitled, 2017, acrylic on wood, 14 x 14 x 1 in.

HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?
MC: Around eight years old I began combining my father’s scraps of wood and covering them with brightly colored painted patterns. I suppose not much has changed!

HCLT: Where can we see your work?
MC: I have work in the 12×12 exhibition at SECCA (opens February 1) in Winston-Salem. In Denmark, I’m in a group exhibition Geometric Behavior at Kunstpakhuset, Ikast, and in New York, I’ll be in a group show, A Radical Voice: 23 Women (at Southampton Arts Center Feb 17-March 25). I’m thrilled to be in such great company!

Also, I have a large dimensional mural installed at Duke University’s Brodhead Center, and I have some works on view in the permanent collection of The Columbus Museum in Georgia.

Of course, you can always see works on my website:

higher ground copy

Martha Clippinger, Higher Ground, 2017, latex on insulation foam and wall, 179 x 80 in., at Duke University’s Brodhead Center

HCLT: Tell us about your current body of work?
MC: I tend to work in a few different modes, simultaneously. I’m always collecting scraps – I use wooden leftovers to construct dimensional paintings, and I combine pieces of fabric to create collages and quilts.

Since 2014, I’ve been working with weavers Licha Gonzalez Ruiz and Agustin Contreras Lopez in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. I create designs for tapetes or woven wool rugs, by making small gouache and watercolor studies, and then, when I am in Oaxaca, we select the colors of yarn to use, and Licha and Agustin weave the designs. You can see images of the tapetes and their process at We’ve also been making clutches and handbags to sell.

Brenda holding tapete 2017 copy

Brenda (Licha’s daughter) holding a recently completed tapete in their altar room / workshop, 2017. Untitled, 2017, hand-dyed woven wool, 80cm x 60cm, woven by Licha Gonzalez Ruiz.

tapete 2016

Untitled, 2015, hand-dyed woven wool, 65 x 32 in., woven by Licha Gonzalez Ruiz and Agustin Contreras Lopez

HCLT: What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas?
MC: We’re lucky to have so many art experiences available in NC. Last month, I loved encountering the ingenuity of Vollis Simpson at the recently opened Whirligig Park in Wilson.

And I find that The Scrap Exchange in Durham provides a wealth of recycled materials to create your own valuable art experience.

puzzlin evidence

Martha Clippinger, puzzlin’ evidence, 2017, lithograph produced with master printmaker Brian Garner at Durham Supergraphic, edition of 10, 19 1/2 x 15 in.

HCLT: What book is on your nightstand right now?
MC: Middlemarch by George Eliot (for escape) and Toys of the Avant-Garde (for pleasure and as research).

HCLT: Best meal in Durham?
MC: So much tasty food in Durham, but I really love to cook and eat at home. I mostly improvise, but this year I’m trying to learn from recipes. Just made a few delicious ones out of The Jerusalem Cookbook.

HCLT: What is up next?
MC: I’ll be developing new woven works in Oaxaca in March and then this summer, I’ll be making molds and slip-casting ceramics at the Arts/Industry residency at Kohler Co. in Sheboygan, WI. I can’t wait!

Clippinger quilt front copy

Martha Clippinger, Pink and Phil, 2017, machine-pieced, hand-quilted quilt made from my late brother’s clothing and sheets and my pink corduroy, 83 x 68 in.

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