Clare Mente - (1929 - 2005)

Clare Mente passed away on February 17th. His adventurous life produced two distinct bodies of work; The Memory Paintings, nostalgic if sometimes troubled looks back at his childhood in the 1930s and 40s, and The Radical Work, reflecting his later political concerns and adventures as a Merchant Marine for 45 years. Most of his paintings, aside from an earlier period (early 1950s,largely undocumented) of more traditional work done in Milwaukee, are acrylic on nautical chart! Once he retired from the sea, he produced almost no work; perhaps the motion of a ship was a part of his method by then, or the ocean his muse.

Both bodies of work are included in a retrospective at KM art, August 20 - September 10, 2005, drawn from the estate and private collections. Links to both bodies of work are below.

The Memory Paintings 1 2

The Radical Work 1 2 3

"Olden Days" 35" x 48" unframed. 950.00

"Too Late" 36" x 44" unframed. 750.00

"Fourth of July" 34" x 45" framed, unglazed. 800.00

"A Good Cop" 35" x 44.25" unframed. 900.00

"It's Gonna Rain" 36' x 48" unframed. 900.00

"Saturday Matinee" 36" x 44" unframed. 800.00


Clarence Mente, 45 years a merchant marine, mercenary and Foreign Legionnaire, paints gentle memories from a childhood of depression-era poverty. He also paints violent images of war and man's inhumanity to just about everything, and these he paints from the viewpoint of a pacifist. Contradictory? Of course. His first press appearance was about his disappearance. In 1951, while serving on a Great Lakes freighter, he vanished into the bowels of the ship for 18 hours, missing two watches and sparking an intense "man overboard" search. He'd become so engrossed in his painting that he completely lost track of time. A newspaper article from that time shows him posing with three of his paintings -- one is like Modigliani, another like Utrillo, another resembles Marsden Hartley. From these typically '50s bohemian styles he departed to find his own vision, eventually arriving at a bright, comic-like style with often heavy narrative baggage. Head lice, petty theft and orphanages don't ordinarily make for pretty pictures.