Interview: Evan Clayton

Please, introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about you.

I grew up in New Jersey in the 80’s.  My father was my first art teacher. He studied Advertising at Pratt Institute in NYC and his obsession with advertising, film & theater directly influenced my own interest in art & print media. I entered my undergraduate studies majoring in photography & film but something wasn’t fitting right. I decided to interrupt my academics to travel abroad & study in an ashram setting. I lived a monastic life for 5 years, waking before 4:00 every morning, meditating & reading eastern works like the Bhagavad Gita. After five years & several trips to India, I returned to the State University of New York to pursue degrees in both Visual Art & Education.

Recent, current or future projects you are involved in that you would like to share with us?

My family & I now live in the Pacific Northwest and it feels like there is a lot going on between Seattle & Portland. I was recently the Art Director for a music album entitled ‘Bhakti Without Borders.’ I just found out last week that the album was nominated for a Grammy Award- so that’s pretty great. In so far as my individual work, I have a current solo show in the Seattle area entitled ‘Portraits & Unportraits.’ The series explores ideas of cultural marginality & identity using mixed media on old book covers. I am fortunate to be represented by a great gallery in Santa Fe, NM. (Nisa Touchon Fine Art) and am connected with a vibrant, local gallery in Olympia, Wa, (Stable Gallery).

What kind of things influence your work?

A lot of things influence my work. Cultural theory continues to be the strongest motivating framework for my work. I’m pretty enamored with aspects of Indian culture like the patterning of textiles, the decay & layering of their public street art & the grid designs used in traditional Rangoli Art.  Being a parent & an educator also influences my approach to art-making. I find it can be a challenge embracing Dada tenets & also feeling a sense of responsibility for the images you put out in the world.

How is your normal process of collaging? (ideas?, where do you get your materials or find your images, where do you work and how, and very important: what do you do with your scraps)

I used to collect & order old print material from India but I found that process unsustainable & costly. Although I wanted to explore specific cultural imagery, I found that it was often inaccessible to viewers or was simply being read as ‘exotic.’ I prefer now to work much more intuitively, perhaps more Jungian… I glean through thrift shops & local book bins searching for something archetypal that evokes a guttural response in me. The next step is usually to try to pair this with some contrasting image or a disparate texture/color. The contrast becomes a sort of metaphor for my own experience of living between conflicting cultures. I am currently using painted dots (which have all sorts of meaning for me) as a mechanism to reconcile the different fragments in my collage. All the while, I find myself also pondering the simple, delicate occurrences of trying to raise my two little girls. They get a lot of my vintage scraps.

Which is your latest discovery in the collage world? What advice can you give to a collage beginner?

My latest discovery may be the idea that collage is an acceptable medium for me as an artist.  For a long time, I always felt like I had to be painting or working on large format work. At least this week, I’m telling myself that its fine. I love looking at abstract painting and I think my favorite these days is the mixed media artist Ward Schumaker.

As for advice, I’ve always liked Picasso’s statement that ‘if you don’t have red, use blue.’

What do say your friends/family about your collage work? And, what do you do when you are not working on art?

For the most part, my friends are supportive of my work. My family however, definitely respects the place art-making has in my life. They know me well enough to see that my visual work is a better expression of my life than I could generate with words.

I’m into vegan cooking, kirtan & meditation. I enjoy living in Olympia & exploring the Pacific Northwest.  I volunteer regularly at my kids school for art related projects & well, my daughters keep me pretty busy.

Would you like to ask anything to John Baldessari? Shoot.

There is so much to ask about. He’s seen so much change in the art world & has been a big part of it. I often wondered if the importance of his ‘dots’ in art history will have any relation to his initial intentions…. I might ask him for his opinion about the importance of intent in art. Also, I’d like to hear how his early experiences in painting (pre-burn) influenced his later conceptual work. Finally, does he have a favorite veggie-burger?