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 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.”