Henry Ray Clark (October 12th, 1936 – July 13th 2006) was a folk and visionary artist born in Bartlett, Texas. A school drop out after the sixth grade he was schooled by his uncle in the ways of street hustling and gambling. He became a criminal with the street name of “The Magnificent Pretty Boy.” Known as being handsome, with deep blue eyes, on the streets of Houston he was known as “Pretty Boy” and then “The Magnificent Pretty Boy”.
After a series of drug dealing convictions he was found guilty of an assault, his third strike in the Texas Three Strikes Law, which sentenced him to 25 years in Huntsville State Prison. While in prison he was introduced to the prison arts program which provided a creative outlet. He developed a characteristic drawing style involving detailed patterning and line work. He drew with green, black and red ball point pens on any scrap of paper he could find — envelopes to prison menus. He described his gladiators and cosmic visions with razor-sharp outlines, covering every millimeter of the surface with the color inks.
After being discovered in a prison art show by William Steen, Clark found an enthusiastic reception in the wider world. After winning a prize in the “Texas Department of Corrections Art Show,” he was exhibited in “Living Folk” at Hirschl & Adler Folk Gallery in New York in 1990; “Passionate Visions of the American South,” New Orleans Museum of Art, 1993, and “Spirited Journeys: Self-Taught Texas Artists of the Twentieth Century,” 1997.
Clark said his work comes to him naturally: “I sit down and, watch a football game or watch my soap operas every day. While I’m watching, this my hand be real busy. Every once in a while, I glance down, I don’t know where it come from, but it’s beautiful precise control.”
And he went on to express: “If anybody knows anything about my art, they know about my planets,” he explained once. “I know they are out there because I’ve been there. Every night when I go to bed, I travel in my spaceship going to all the places I put on these papers.”
Clark went to prison more than once, but after his final release he made Houston his home. Ironically, Clark died on July 29, 2006, the victim of a robbery and murder in his home.