Glenn Clark loves the chunky sound of metal on metal and how a flick of the wrist sends a player spinning.
For the Penticton artist there were times as a youngster he dreamed about shrinking in size to join the action on his beloved table hockey game. His latest piece of work almost accomplishes that.
“I do have a fondness for the table hockey games. A very close friend of mine named Steve Ross and I, when we were teenagers growing up, the Okanagan winters were longer back then, we would sit around and throw pucks at each other on the table hockey games,” said Clark.
It is that type of nostalgia that helped him create Best Of Seven, a mixed media piece of greatly enlarged versions of the tiny two-dimensional guys controlled by metal rods in table hockey games. Clark was commissioned as part of the Kelowna Art Gallery’s initiative to extend its reach to a larger audience with a 40-foot art wall in the departures area of the Kelowna airport. Curator Liz Wylie offered the space to Clark after another piece fell through. He had to create it in just eight short months.
“I told them no problem and then I got off the phone and thought, ‘Oh god, what am I going to do,’” said Clark. “I thought about it for two months and had gone all over the place from portraits but in the back of my mind I wanted to do something fun.
“It popped into my mind when I was playing table hockey with a couple of my nephews. It was clear as could be that I should do this.”
Clark, who has four table hockey games in his personal collection, hopes the installation gets people turning their heads and taking a minute to reflect on old-fashioned fun and memories before they head off to catch their flight.
Drawing inspiration from when the games were at the height of their popularity in the 60s and 70s his Best of Seven has a retro edge with players outfitted in Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings uniforms. It is estimated that up to one million people will see Clark’s work over the six months it will be featured.
Hockey fan or not, the detail and skill behind Best of Seven is something to be admired. Players are designed to look like Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau.
Clark said the project pushed him into new mediums with metal fabrication. Good thing his neighbour and good friend Mike Turley is a blacksmith and helped guide him along the way. Now Clark is turning the blacksmith into an artist and the artist into a blacksmith.
“So we have a lot of fun in our back alley,” said Clark.
Clark’s exhibit will run at the Kelowna airport until the beginning of May. He is not sure what will happen with it after that, but Clark already has plans to expand it.
“I probably will make some interactive metal hockey goalies and some other things. When I get that piece back I will try and get a little hockey show I can bounce around and play with,” said Clark.
The Best of Seven piece has generated a lot of feedback, some from people wanting to see the players move since they are fashioned to look like they are going to be spinning on their slots. Already he has started on the models to make that a reality. He plans to fabricate more goaltenders, and not just any, the ones he considers the greats of the game.
“They are just characters of the game, famous old characters. Johnny Bower when he played no one knew how old he was and he never told anybody. Here he is this really old guy winning Stanley Cups and he was very fascinating. Gump Worsley was one of the last guys to play without a facemask and he was this roly poly guy that nobody could get the puck by. He was one of the famous crazy guys of his era. Then you have Jacques Plante who is one of the most famous goalies of all time,” said Clark.
When he isn’t mapping out new additions or working on other aspects of his artwork, you can find Clark at the arena on Tuesday nights playing pick up with a group he has skated with for years.
“It is a sickness really.
Either death by hockey or death by not playing hockey.”
Clark also has landscape sketches from his travels around B.C. currently showing in Vernon and is planning for another show on Vancouver Island in March. The passionate hockey player is also the artist behind the 28-foot high outdoor mural of the Penticton Vees 1955 hockey team located at the Elks Hall in Penticton.