Daniel Clauson Interview - The Hopper Prize

Daniel Clauson

Daniel Clauson on the lifelong pursuit of art, clay as a means of expressing emotions and memories, and working for visibility, empathy and outreach.

How did you get into making art?

I’ve always been a maker, starting as a child when I was drawing on the underside of furniture and fidgeting with pens down long rolls of papers. Art has been a constant in my life.

I was dissuaded from going into art as a career, so when I had the opportunity to go to college, I attended the University of Montana in Missoula intending to get a degree in photojournalism. It was a degree that required fine art credits. I signed up for the only class still available and it was Intro to Ceramics.

That first ceramics class is one of the most vital components of what has made me the maker I am today. Something unlocked in me, and I felt as if my hands couldn’t move fast enough. I remember thinking to myself that no matter what, I’m just going to have to make this work. Because in that studio I found a feeling I wasn’t familiar with; I felt at home. I found ways to express with my body and clay, emotions and memories that were too fragile for me to showcase in any other way. Ceramics became one of the most essential materials/processes in my life, and I have sacrificed much for it, and dedicated my life to it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently in the research phase of my next body of work. It is an expansion of my most recent work showcased in my solo exhibition ‘The Deconstruction of Adam’ at the Stephanie Ann Roper Gallery in Frostburg MA.

This new body of work will be composed of ceramic arches, clay ‘Bodys’, photography, video, and paperworks. In the studio I will be crafting clay forms that are reminiscent of the ‘Figure’ that possess distortions to human anatomy. These will be a mix of fired and unfired clay scaled with relation to my own proportions. Some of these ceramic works will be roughly based around the arch forms of Roman Aqueducts with corporeal components to form these arcades. Along with these large scale forms, there will be experimentations with unfired clay sculpted with reference to the Body that I will be photographing and filming the construction of.

I am utilizing the Aqueduct as a launching point for research on societal governing of the movement and access of necessary resources; relating this to hormones and gender affirming care for Transgender and Queer individuals. Juxtaposing these architectural ceramic bodies will be unfired amorphic ‘Figures’. The unfired clay pieces will exist in the staged realm of photography, performing as documentation as well as referencing bias identification and categorization. Through video I will immortalize the components of wet clay in progress of being sculpted, to contemplate the mortal, as well as timeless qualities of body and gender in society. These new media approaches will be presented congruently with the fired ceramic arches in order to express different dimensions of preservation upon clay, body, and Queerness. This material research will ignite investigations that go beyond the limits of traditional ceramic craft.

Art has been a constant in my life.

Daniel Clauson

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

This work is crafted around my Queer identity and experience living/surviving in the United States of America. There is an urgency to this body of work, where the inspiration is rooted in fear. I’m creating art to build empathy towards the Transgender community during these violent political times.

The past few years have been an intensely traumatic political time for Trans folx, with over a hundred bills in 2021, over 200 bills in 2022, and multiple federal bills already being presented this year that attack the rights of this already vulnerable community. Visibility, empathy and outreach is essential during these times. Through voice, validation, and vulnerability my practice aims to acknowledge the complexities of Queerness and the components of its foundation around love and trauma, to bring forth a space that is sensitive and healing.

I want more people to see and understand the effects of these bills through creating artworks that speak to my experience in this Trans body. My hope is that through showing an emotive/bodily collection of work others can emphasize and see humanity, see pain, see joy, and see the socio-political systems at work and therefore better understand the violence that trans people are facing.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I usually have multiple projects happening, and I’m never fully certain if they will all connect. Each project usually has a planned trajectory, starting as a sketch moving it into clay, finding its way into a kiln or into a photograph. Outside of ceramics, my practice involves less project distinction and takes on a broader approach. When I draw and write, these materials work without boundary, nor do they exist with a planned trajectory. They flow in a different and elusive way.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I like to have multiple things going at once.

In the studio, I will have a table with my journals/sketchbooks open to different pages I want to focus on that day. I keep my laptop open to a blank (or work in progress) document to write upon throughout the day. These collections of words help influence the ceramic pieces as well as fuel my creative process. I write poems or titles, or larger writings that sometimes reveal themselves in an exhibition and sometimes remain hidden in my files.

With ceramics, it tends to tell me what I am doing that specific day, depending on its dryness and where I am with that project. The clay is usually what will consume most of my day. Caring for it, building it up, refining it, planning and preparing for it, reclaiming, glazing, etc. I will usually have multiple clay projects going at once due to the different states of dryness the clay will be in. I am most satisfied when I have 3 work in progress pieces all in different stages, unwrapped, and slowly spinning on their banning wheels. They keep an eerie but soft company.

I keep a wall or table with some paper to draw on, this keeps my ideas coming and lets me take breaks from words and clay.
Throughout the day I will jump between these things, clay, words, drawing. All usually in tune with music, and coffee.

Who are your favorite artists?

Berlinde De Bruyckere, David Wojnarowicz, Ivana Bašić, Cassils, and Diana al-Hadid.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Going to exhibitions! I live in the Bay area and I discover many artists at local exhibition openings. Online platforms like Art axis and instagram have been helpful too.

Stay Connected

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Our Network