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Immersive art for all ages with Charles Clough

“Clufffalo Institute” is what artist Charles Clough has dubbed his current studio space, located on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora.

But his story goes way back.

In 1974, Buffalo native Clough (pronounced “cluff”) was a cofounder of Hallwalls, along with Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo. He’s lived, worked and taught in New York City and Rhode Island; his artwork is included in over 70 museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery and Buffalo’s Albright-Knox. He’s had almost 80 solo shows, and has won many awards, including a recent Guggenheim Fellowship.

And you (and your kids or your friends) can be a part of art that he is making now. Clough has always believed that art creation can be public and participatory. At Clufffalo Institute, any and all are invited to join Clough, now 66, in his studio.

There, you’ll don protective clothing, including a full-body plastic apron and paper booties to cover your shoes. (Gloves are offered, and blue painter’s tape for any other areas where paint might splash.) Then, you add a layer to one of the paintings he calls “Clufffalo: Seasons.” With precise attention to when an actual season ends and the next begins, Clough does four of these paintings per year. He finishes each Seasons painting himself, “grinding through the layers until I achieve aesthetic satisfaction.”

“Inviting others to participate is partly my response to people’s comment when looking at abstract art that ‘my kid could do that,’” said Clough. “I say, ‘come and do it.’ Involving as many people as I can in this place and at this moment gives content to these abstract works that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Clough photographs each participant and their layer, and uses the photos to produce “an art history book” about each Seasons painting.

“Documenting and preserving things is acknowledging them; making them concrete,” he said. “Like fossils — if fossils don’t form, the history is lost. When I make a book about each Seasons painting, it can be reflected on, and sets up resonance of consciousness.”

There have been over 150 Seasons painting sessions involving more than 350 people from around the world, ages 18 months to 93 years. “Clufffalo: Autumn 2017” began in September, marking two full years of Seasons. Participation, added Clough, “is a collectible, destination experience.” While a fee of $100 is listed, he said that it’s really “pay what you can,” and that scholarships are available.

Going all the way back to high school, Clough believed that art is a “public relation” — something for many people to reflect on, and very much about social interaction.

“We tend to think of our relationship with a painting as personal, and it is in part,” said Clough. “I have my favorite artists; how I identify with those artists is something that gives meaning to my life. But art really isn’t so private — it’s on display, as we cavort in public, it’s social.”

Charles Clough, Clufffalo Institute
Roycroft Campus, The Print Shop
21 South Grove Street, Suite 120, East Aurora
646-283-6964; clufff.com

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