Clift family of artists on display at Museum of the Southwest in Midland

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We each experience the world in our own way. We see and interpret our present through the lens of our past, and no two people have quite the same history. The ways in which we interact with our surroundings are therefore entirely our own. How then, when we are brimming with thoughts and ideas about the world around us, do we communicate them? How do we share our worlds with one another?

For the Clift family, art has become a common language.

William Clift is a professional photographer who renders both sweeping landscapes and intimate Polaroids with the same ethereal quality. His daughter Carola and his son Will are artists by trade as well. Carola works in a variety of visual mediums. Her photographs, charcoals and paintings are coursing with a strong, emotive gesture. Will is a sculptor with a background in engineering, whose gracefully curving creations balance indefinitely in a moment just before the fall.

William’s wife, Vida Clift, and their eldest daughter Charis are not artists in a professional sense; However, both express themselves through artistic means. Vida cultivates her garden to nurture plants, and her home to nurture creativity. Charis takes striking photographs of things that catch her eye in her daily life, which she shares with the people she loves.

Between the five of them, the Clifts have carried on a visual conversation for decades. When Will was little, he built teatering, cantilever sculptures from bits of wood. He usually knocked them down, until one day William came along and glued one together, demonstrating without words the value he placed in his son’s creative expression.

When Carola and William were commissioned to photograph the David and Gladys Wright house, they worked in tandem while maintaining their unique perspectives. Between the two of them, they captured their subject in richer, more rounded detail that one artist could work alone.


So the conversation continues, and now we have the chance to join in. For the first time, all five members of the Clift family are represented in one exhibition, “A Particular World,” at the Museum of the Southwest.

Wandering the gallery, we notice repeating motifs, between the artists and throughout their early and later works. We see Carola’s swooping charcoal lines echoed in the arc of Will’s sculptures and recognize an appreciation for shape and contrast in both Charis’ and William’s photographs. Meanwhile, Vida’s love of flowers and color springs up everywhere.

Overall, their collective work has a family resemblance, and yet each artist contributes something distinct to the ongoing dialogue.

“A Particular World: The Clift Family of Artists” is on display at The Museum of the Southwest through Aug. 7.