Studio Tour #010 Emily Clayton
Studio Tour #010 Emily Clayton
Over the past few years I have had the privilege of watching Emily Clayton evolve. With a studio right down to street from The Post Family space it was an easy destination when looking for a change of scene and a person to nerd out with for a while. Although I have to admit I have not taken advantage of the drop-in visits as much as I would like to. As Emily get's ready for her first solo show, I sat down with here to talk about her progression of work and what we should expect from a show inspired by dead rituals entitled Sad Cycle which opens at Eastern Expansions this Friday (Dec 10th, 2010 from 6-9) as part for Select Media Festival in Bridgeport.
Chad Kouri: How does it feel being a designer and a fine artist? do you prefer it that way or would you focus on one if you could?
Emily Clayton: I enjoy the detailed nature of design and my design practice has facilitated some amazing collaborations, like working with Mule Magazine and the Printervention show last Spring, but if I had the choice I'd leave the computer behind and focus all my energy on art.
CK: How is it having a husband working in the same field? What are some things that come up that you would have never expected when working with your romantic interest? (I know this is corny… sry).
EC: This makes me laugh, in a good way. I can't complain. It is encouraging to have a partner you can talk about art with all day. It's a good way to both boost and break down a lingering ego.
CK: I can tell from your studio that you are an investigator. You have tons of studies of different materials and methods over and over again. It's almost scientific. Do you find that it is hard to consider anything a finished piece when your process and investigation stages are so intensive?
EC: They are all finished essentially. I am never satisfied so I continue to make the same object over and over, but they are all completed pieces.
CK: I've noticed that you have slowly moved from primarily two-dimensional work to working on a lot of three-dimensional projects. What was the reason for the change? Was that out of necessity or was it the medium itself that attracted you?
EC: It was out of necessity. The paintings I was producing two years ago always failed in my mind to communicate the concepts I was working with. So they just naturally grew into sculptural forms. Recently I am at a similar crossroads. The objects I am making in my studio need a place to go beyond a exhibition or gallery space. So I am currently working on more time-based pieces that involve my sculptures. I will have to wait and see if sticks. The video piece I am showing at Eastern Expansion has a photography component, but I am omitting that from the show because it doesn't suit the space. I definitely think photography and video will both become a vital part of my process in the next few months, and hopefully I will continue to move in that direction. I'd love to experiment in film-making someday.
CK: I've also noticed that you have gone from a very strong, almost addictive color palette to using primarily white in your new work. When did you make the decision to do this and why?
EC: I didn't make a conscious decision it came out of a formal exploration. I was intrigued with a series of work by the Italian artist, Piero Manzoni. The works consist of endless combinations of white on white. One idea gave birth to another and before I knew it everything was white, which is tough in a dusty studio. I enjoy the constant struggle of keeping all the pieces pristine. I also have an affinity for drop cloths and covering things with them, so the white is working out nicely at the moment.
CK: What about the strange materials? Clay pigeons, pored enamel, bulk colored shopping bags – Are you drawn to these things because of their form first and then try to use them in pieces or are you developing concepts without specific materials in mind and then find materials that fit the concept.
EC: That is tricky. They work in tandem. The raw materials I am attached to on a formal, methodical level, like fabric and plaster. I attempt to make the materials do things that are unnatural, for example making muslin protrude off of a 2-dimensional panel. But the stranger materials come from specific experiences and concepts. The clay pigeons are fascinating for me on both levels. They are fragile, beautiful little objects but are intended to be slung in the air and shot! So I decided the best thing to do with them was to make them into a dress and then shoot it.
CK: Do you like when people have their own stories that they get out of your work or do you prefer to write out a very specific artist statement for people to reference?
EC: I'm not interested in catering to one audience. I am fine with interpretation. That is just part of it. I definitely have a specific intention, but the goal is to make work that has several entry points on both an emotional and conceptual level.
CK: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming solo show. It's your first, correct? Are you finding yourself creating a bunch of new work to display or working with past pieces that has only been shown individually in group shows?
EC: Yes, this is my first solo exhibition. I have been working on a new direction since the spring and the pieces in Sad Cycle are part of that. It is sort of a series within a series. The large ghost-like figures are part of a smaller body of work based on the Kubler-Ross Model known as the 5 stages of grief, which inspired the title of the show. The skeet (clay pigeons) and video performance that will be shown are part of the a bigger scheme. All the objects have been made in the past three months.
CK: Do you feel like this solo show will create a conclusion to a body of work? Do you ever feel like when you create something that doesn't fit into your past portfolio that you can't put it with everything else?
EC: I am always working thematically so all the objects build onto one another in some capacity. I see the show at Eastern Expansion as a mid-point.
CK: What impression do you hope other people leave with after your opening?
EC: I hope they get to drink a beer and look at some nice things. And maybe cry a little on the inside. That's about it.
see larger images of Emily Clayton's studio at on flickr.
Sad Cycle includes works that are inspired by death rituals. The exhibition is part of a larger series that seeks to examine ways in which people grieve through a lens of palpably dramatic forms and performance. The pieces shown at Eastern Expansion were created in the past three months and reflect an intimate focus on material and a process-driven sculptural practice.
Sad Cycle / Emily Clayton
Eastern Expansion / 244 w. 31st Street / Chicago Reception December 10, 2010 / 6-9 pm Through January 7