Boulder, CO is having a renaissance. Or more appropriately, it’s in the process of having one. Or perhaps, even more appropriately, it will have one as a result of Renaissance inspired photographer Pinque Clark.
On March 25th during her Boulder Arts Week opening night artist reception at the What We Love Winery, Pinque Clark will unveil three new photos printed on canvas from her Boudoir Series. Though the series has ruffled feathers in the Boulder, CO community where she’s resided for over 30 years, it’s also garnered widespread recognition.
Originally an aspiring geologist, Arkansas native Pinque Clark found her passion in photography. Today, she runs a successful photography business in arts hub Boulder, CO. Clark photographs in both black and white and color, encompassing a classic aesthetic.
For the Boudoir Series, Clark photographed exotic dancers in a manner that pays homage to the Renaissance. The photos play with light, shadow, and her subjects’ inherent sensuality. Each photo in the series appears artfully crafted; it’s no surprise that Clark prefers to work within the framework of fine art. Yet several people found her photos to be pushing the envelope too far, some actually likening her work to pornography. Others requested the removal of several photos hanging in the winery.
In her charming Arkansas twang, Clark spoke with me over the phone about the Boudoir series, the controversy it’s ignited, and her elements of style.
You have described the boudoir photo series as “Renaissance inspired;” how has this era influenced your work?
I observed Italian Renaissance painters as a child, the Renaissance look of the photos, the light play. It’s about the play of light and how it caresses the subject, whether it’s a human or a flower petal; it’s about the difference between the light and the dark and what’s revealed. The light and the dark is such a part of me.
So did your 2015 Italian photo series play a part in your inspiration for this series?
I spent a lot of time in Italy, and the Italian Renaissance was so ingrained in me. [In Italy] I felt at home. Really, I chose this subject as a challenge to myself, and for myself to capture [the] sensuality in an individual, just to see if I could do it. I can photograph trees and nature, and beautiful photographs of human beings in any form!
Can you elaborate on the challenge of shooting boudoir?
I compare this boudoir series with cutting edge, or fine art boudoir. You know, I can take classical photographs, I can take photographs of a mountain, and it’s absolutely magnificently beautiful. [In the] last seven years of my photographic career I’ve studied the classics, moving into contemporary and beyond, and pushing and testing my own capability just to keep moving forward—just like all the great artists! I don’t compare myself to Picasso or to anyone like that, but that’s how I feel, I’ve never had a photography class! When I first started taking pictures after my divorce I went to Italy, and I took, 5,000 black and white photographs!
That sounds cathartic.
Yes it was emotionally cathartic.
You’ve said that the series is an “exploration of individual sensuality.” What did you do to reflect that?
Boudoir can be suggestive and very sexual, a sort of elegance. The light is hitting here and the light is hitting there, it’s strictly a model! They are exuding their own sensuality; I’m just capturing the light. The link of the pearls [seen in the photos] for example is sensuous and soft.
How did you decide to incorporate the link of pearls?
One of the models I was working with was perfectly beautiful physically, just perfect body, she’s not in this series, but she had no sensuality. She would just stand there, no caressing, no sensuality! But I had these pearls in my car for some reason, so I grabbed them, gave them to her, and told her to do something with them! All of a sudden, the softness, elegance, and femininity got brought out.
You also photographed men with these pearls.
Yes I did. Many men talked to me about doing this series. One was willing to model, and he’s not gay. But I had plenty of gay men approach me, and worked with them too. I brought the pearls into the series to bring out sensuality… sexuality; it’s odd how they have caused the controversy really.
Why is there so much controversy happening in Boulder do you think?
Well [at What We Love Winery], a couple photos drew red flags to the customers and to the winery employees. They made me either turn them around or take them out. But it was not the winery owners; they loved the photographs, and they are wonderful people. It was some of their employees who recognized any raciness about it, and a person who had paid [the winery] or was having a private party.
Which photos did you have to remove?
One was of the man with the sheer underwear with his hands tied behind his back with the pearls, another with butt less underwear with another encircling his butt.
Do you think it’s because people may interpret the pearls as bondage?
I’ll tell you what it is; the ladies did the same things as the men. There’s a woman in a white man’s shirt, and there was not a mention of it. But it was a different story when the men did it. The men being in a bondage thing versus the women being in the bondage created very different reactions.
I heard someone likened your work to porn. How did you react?
Yeah one person said I didn’t know you were into pornography! Somebody else said ‘Hey, Pinque I guess you like photographing naked people!’ I just shook my head and said, ‘Whatever; there are different levels of artistic sophistication.’
Are these photos going to see a re-release on Friday?
I’m going to release three photographs, one is pretty racy, and it’s of three men!
What have the reactions to the boudoir series been like overall?
98% of the people who viewed these photographs are absolutely mesmerized and have talked about how I’ve achieved my goal in photographing the sensuality of different people! Overwhelmingly positive replies. On Facebook, one guy said I never in my life wanted to be a strand of pearls until now! (Laughs).
That’s really funny. If people asked you to shoot boudoir photos in the future, would you?
For those in the Boulder, CO area who want to see Clark’s Boudoir Series up close, they can RSVP here.