Dawn Clifford – A Special Xperience Interview

Written by on December 2, 2023

Dawn Clifford – A Special Xperience Interview – by Stephanie J Bartik.

On my way to photograph a band in the north country, I heard that a local band members’ mother was at a gallery showing a few of her paintings, so I stopped in and met Dawn Clifford, the mother of Johnny Clifford, lead singer of The Broken Hearted – Tom Petty Tribute. I was intrigued to find that creativity and artistry must run through the genes of this exceptional family.

In the quiet town of Glens Falls, nestled in upstate New York, a nonagenarian artist named Dawn Clifford is making waves in the local art scene. With a gallery showing at the Betty O’Brien Gallery in the Shirt Factory, Dawn’s story is one of resilience, friendship, and a lifelong love for painting.

Dawn’s artistic journey began in the 1970s, sparked by a friend who introduced her to the basics of acrylic painting. She dabbled in this new passion, even winning first prize at an “On my own time” show. However, life’s twists and turns led her away from the canvas for almost two decades. She felt blocked, unable to put brush to canvas, she then, put the brush away.

In 1990, fate intervened when she received the gift of private lessons from a local artist. The classes reignited her artistic flame, this time with watercolors. But it wasn’t until she joined forces with fellow artist Bernice Mennis that Dawn truly found her creative voice. Their shared love for art brought them together, even though they worked with different mediums—Bernice with oil paint and Dawn with a thicker form of acrylic on canvas.

The duo met weekly, exchanging not just tips and ideas, but also providing each other with the inspiration and company necessary to sustain a creative journey. Dawn attributes much of her artistic persistence to Bernice, a friend who became both a muse and a motivator.

Through Bernice’s invitation, Dawn became part of North Country Arts and exhibited her work in various galleries, including the now-closed Chestertown location. She found joy in seeing her creations adorn the walls of these artistic spaces and relished the opportunity to connect with other local talents.

The Shirt Factory gallery became a significant venue for Dawn, where she displayed her art for many years. Volunteering at gallery shows, she discovered a unique way to engage with the vibrant local art community, fostering connections that enriched her artistic experience.

Now, after over 25 years of shared artistic endeavors, Dawn and Bernice have the honor of showcasing their work at the Betty O’Brien Gallery. It’s a testament to their enduring friendship and the creative synergy that has fueled their passion for art. The exhibit at North Country Arts in the Shirt Factory offers a glimpse into Dawn Clifford’s world, a world where art transcends age, and the canvas becomes a timeless expression of a life well-lived.

For those curious to witness Dawn’s artistic journey firsthand, It will be an opportunity to step into the vivid world of a local nonagenarian artist whose paintings speak volumes about the beauty of rediscovery, friendship, and the enduring power of creativity. Look for her everywhere you look for art.


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