Check out this video about how Tony Natsoulas honoured his friend and fellow ceramic artist Clayton Bailey (1939-2020) in a one of a kind exhibition back in 2021. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to honour a friend! Find out more about Clayton’s inspiring life on his instagram.
So this show at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art came about
because Clayton had suffered a stroke and he was not,
he was very depressed and so we would go and visit him once a week
and I thought that just to make him feel a little happier
I would apply to the Sonoma Valley Museum
and they had said yes. It was great, a two person show
in 2020. Of course, with COVID
we actually had to postpone it to 2021
which was really unfortunate because Clayton
passed away in 2020.
We’re going to have the show anyway. I wanted to honor Clayton Bailey by doing the show
by doing the sculptures that I did
this whole entire year. I did a portrait of him of course.
What my idea was in honoring Clayton was to
build sculptures that had to do with
him and what his interests were. So I did
three artists and I did Clayton. I did a sculpture of
Alexander Calder who I just thought was wonderful.
He was so inventive and Clayton was so inventive. I thought that
went together. The other sculpture that I did to honor Clayton
was a sculpture of Keith Haring which I thought
was, I think Keith Haring was very inventive and very
succinct. The second part
of the honoring of Clayton is I wanted
to do some inventors and so I did a sculpture of Rube Goldberg
even though Rube Goldberg is, you know, he’s an artist but he
invented all these fantasy machines
on how to make something, some event
as difficult as possible, some task as difficult as possible.
Clayton also was a musician so I wanted to honor
that part of his work. So I did a sculpture of Annie Lennox
and she has been my hero for years too.
She was in the Eurythmics in the 1980s and she
has since had an incredible solo career.
She’s won all kinds of awards and she’s
also an amazing activist which I just think is wonderful.
She has a
organization called The Circle and the neon circle represents
that. And then
in her dress I made
it look kind of like the Coliseum in that there’s all these
I guess they’re not doorways but there’s all these cubbies
where I stuck all the pieces that I thought were important parts
of her life. I did
the sculpture of Clayton and I decided
to of course put him in a pith helmet because he, his
altered ego was named Dr. Gladstone and Dr. Gladstone
was an archaeologist who dug up all kinds of bones, Bigfoot bones,
Cyclops bones, he was amazing.
So he’s got a pith helmet on, he’s got a bone that he dug up
and he also, his body is made up of a big
boiler because he also did a lot
of robots that he built from different
objects like coolers and ovens
and all kinds of different things. And so I thought a boiler
would be great cause he was such a wonderful guy
you know, very warm like a boiler would
I mean, like a boiler would be. Warm hearted that is.
And funnier in hell.
So I got this, I got a picture of a boiler and I made that
and then I also had the door open at his chest and I found
this light bulb online that flickers like
a candle would and so I put that in there and it looks like the boiler is
hot. And then what I
did is it just didn’t seem like it was going to be tall enough,
so what I did is I made a flying saucer underneath
him and I thought how can I make this flying saucer more interesting
so I covered it with these little marbles, the little flattened marbles
and that didn’t do much, so I had my friend Tim Laser blow some
glass cups and so I put those in the windows
and covered those with more flattened marbles
and then I found online these little disco balls and put those
in the windows of the flying saucer. Now Clayton loved flying
saucers, loved ray guns, loved that whole thing
so then I had someone make me a
base like kind of a flying saucer base might be.
He also collected a ton of
ray guns and he had bunches of them, so
I have ray gun in his hand with a little zap on the end of it.
So these pieces I did, I’m
very happy with. I feel like I made another step
in a direction that I wanted to be in the past.
I haven’t really been very happy with a lot of my work
and these I’m pretty happy with all of them, which is really amazing.
I think the big step is that I’ve actually honed more
in on the people’s lives and their personalities.
The other pieces I sort of just made
sculptures of them and these I think
are talking more about them and their lives
so it’s a little more compact about the person.
The Picasso piece
I like a lot, but it was just about the
idea of fine art versus craft
whereas the Annie Lennox piece
really has to do with her and her activism
and her being a mother and being just
an amazing person all round.
The same thing with the Rube Goldberg piece, each piece is about
his life, and I really like that idea of trying to
show people, not just on the
surface, this is a portrait of them. I want to say this is a portrait
of them and the things they’ve done and who they are.
Follow Tony on Instagram for more info about his work and this fabulous exhibition.
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