Clay Stapleford: Perched on the Precipice
By: Han Vance
A painter of “shapes and colors,” Clay Stapleford first premiered in print in spring 2016 with a piece on the cover of LOOKBOOK Volume 3 and in a feature page inside the glossy city guide publication, of which I was marketing director. A man about town in Atlanta for some years, the handsome and gregarious UNC-educated Stapleford has been living exclusively off selling his paintings for over a year now. Still a fresh new face in the art game, he displays an astounding maturity of brushwork belying his relatively recent self-training as a painter.
Stapleford’s portfolio consists entirely of vivid abstracts, many in patterns and blues reminiscent of the prettiest preppy plaid shirts. He creates daily from his home studio in Atlanta, via an inspirational drinking in of the city’s constant energy and motion. One can plainly see the effects in the vibrant fluidity of his brushstrokes, as actual brush movements themselves are practically visible when viewing Stapleford’s astounding pieces. Think the rigorous physicality of Jackson Pollock’s work, with a color palette much closer to a later period Henri Matisse.
A part of – yet with clear aspirations beyond – the vibrant but still fledgling Atlanta art scene, Stapleford solo painted live on the roof of Ponce City Market for the EarthShare of Georgia Earth Day party in 2016 and then was asked back to do it again for a leadership event a few months later. He debuted publicly back in March of 2016 as a so-called “RAW” artist; Stapleford was part of their roving multicity group shows, with the “RAW ATL” edition held at The Masquerade.
In 2017, Stapleford went international, selling in Germany. His successful first solo show ran this summer at Made Again in Inman Park of Atlanta, where a nattily-clad, pretty audience sipped on wine while studying the displayed works, several of which sold.
I accompanied this true colorist to the HIGH Museum of Art where we enjoyed a quick vanilla flavored cocktail at Table 1280, the fine-dining restaurant actually considered a part of the museum itself. On the way over Stapleford had noted, “There’s a real excitement in Atlanta.” After viewing artwork inside the museum, Stapleford furthered to me his creative notions, explaining a personal art awakening and continued blossoming: “I have become more environmentally aware since I began painting…because my eyes have been more open. It’s definitely a journey already. And, it’s just getting started.”
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