Artist duo Christian and Rob Clayton, who exhibit as The Clayton Brothers, found their muse at Sun Thrift, inspiring their latest show “Open to the Public.” Three to four years in the making, the artists visited the shop almost every other day to browse and people watch. Rob Clayton says:
“There are two aspects to this show: one side of it is the store itself and the employees that run it, and more importantly, the other side is the people that go there to get things they need.” (Source)
A third aspect could be said to be the pieces that the brothers purchased and brought into their studio, and sometimes into their finished works. Drawn to the handmade and personal the artists speculate on the embedded stories the objects can’t tell. They see the store itself as a curated collection of sorts, where the employees determine the exhibition by making connections and creating categories. Christian and Rob, inspired by this method of organization, say it inspired the way they worked for this show.
When creating, the brothers have an interesting method of collaboration. They work simultaneously in the same studio, leaving unfinished pieces out for the other to be inspired by and often to add to.
Rob elaborates, “At the studio we don’t say, ‘This is mine, that’s yours.’ We refer to the drawings that haven’t made it into the process yet as carcasses. If a painting sits around for a while, one of us will usually grab it all of a sudden and change it in some way. It’s a constant give and take.” Christian adds, “When do get into a heated spot with a piece, we know each other well enough to let things stew.” (Source)
Their different approaches and techniques are evident in this collection, and it is particularly apt. The varied stylistic choices — assemblage, drawing, collage—speak to the patchwork merchandise in the store as well as to the diverse shoppers.
“The characters that inhabit Open to the Public are overall a sweet bunch. They might look disjointed and fractured, or some might say disturbing, but our overall intent with these drawings was to gain an honest understanding of ourselves as humans. The objects that are discarded or donated to the thrift store become a direct reflection on us as people. We look at the objects like archaeologists, and there is narration attached to all of it. The stories of peoples lives, creative heartfelt moments, messages left for loved ones, forgotten memories… this is what has been driving our characters.” (Source)