Dimensions: 60″ x 52″ x 43″
Medium: Marble
©2010 Clayton Thiel
Photo By: Kate Cameron

About Clayton

Born in St Charles, Missouri in 1956, Clayton Thiel received his BA in sculpture from Maryville University in 1979, then came to California to study with Peter Voulkos and Joan Brown at UC Berkeley.  At San Jose State he studied with David Middlebrook and Stan Welsh receiving an MFA in 1985 (suma cum laude).  He has been a full-time professor of Sculpture (clay, stone, and bronze), Art History, and Design Chabot College in Hayward, CA since 1990.  Thiel’s work has been shown widely in exhibits and galleries, and he has received numerous commissions from private collectors.

The Sculpture of Clayton Thiel

The recurrent theme in this body of work is what I like to call “the dreamer dreaming”.

The Big Head series is one that is modeled after the head and face of my first grandchild as an infant. This face represents the archetype of the “eternal child”.  A child, in all of his/her wealth of imagination, gets to dream of anything they want. The images depicted in this series are both of dreams lived, and dreams I wish to live.

The Shaman series also calls upon the dreamer archetype, as a shaman represents one who can hold and move the visions of the world. A shaman can also be a guide through the dream world. The source of inspiration for many of these pieces comes from my own personal work with the ceremonies and practices of the ancient Inca medicine wheel that has taught me how to reclaim in my own life the childlike dreamer I so often depict in my artwork.

The themes in my work incorporate the four elements – air is depicted by vision clouds or vast sky-scapes found in the dreamer’s world, fire is shown in the jagged lines and textures or in billowing clouds of smoke. Water can be seen in the concentric rings rippling outward in patterns as in a pond, and all of my work is made of clay, the mud of the earth.

These designs are in nature and nature is my inspiration.  There is a meditative process that happens when I am building these pieces.  Once I have made a big head or a shaman they take a life of their own – demanding I make some choices about the story wanting to be told.  I don’t plan these things – rather there is an intuitive decision making process that I have come to surrender to.

My work is often categorized as surrealist – calling on the unconscious dream world and bringing it into play through each piece of work. What I have admired about surrealist artists of the 20th century is that they took the most improbable combinations of dreams, memories and reflections, and have made them appear possible.

–  Clayton Thiel