Clayton Singleton's art is unapologetically sincere. He captures and brings together the principles of Black history and family, therefore creating Black Family History.
A beautiful means of expression, the warmth and identity of his art creates a visual family tree rooted in the past, flourishing in the present. His work allows the viewer to relate and connect, making them part of his wonderful art.
Your art is powerful, can you tell us your inspirations and motivations behind your work?
The motivations and inspirations behind my work focuses on the human will to create our own stories and outcomes; education, aspirations, courage, perseverance, and beauty are essential in this journey.
Since a child, I’ve been aware of external forces sculpting people’s lives. I’d hear of restrictions on Black people, colored as my parents would say, women, poorer class, gay.. you name it... As I grew, I realized each person I knew, in any of those categories, wanted to not be in those boxes, those squares... they wanted to have a life of their own. It seemed like the world was playing four-square and they could never rotate to the A-square which meant they could never serve... which means they were always in response and react mode... they didn’t have control of their own stories.
I believe each of us wants to write our own story. The goal with my work is to say out loud that yes you can write your own story! You can be the Protagonist! You can create an ending to your liking. It’s the instance that we use our pens, pencils, chalks, and crayons to sketch it, paint it, sing it, write it, dance it, perform it— something. Anything to get your voice out into the wind.
As a teacher, how important is expression for the next generation?
As a teacher of 26 years, I watched how expression plays an essential role in human development. I may be over simplifying this but I believe we have an innate need to create - to affect change. If we aren’t constructive in our creativity, we become destructive in our creativity.
We are going to create. I think too often we associate a expression with construction... on the other hand, that child, that student, that people, who doesn’t have a constructive arena, they will destroy if for nothing more than the power of affecting change. Human beings need a space and place for constructive expression. Whether that be any of the traditional arts or in daily art living. These are what I call breathable arts.. things we do everyday beyond the canon... things such as gardening.. that’s creative and expressive.
Whether it’s bringing order to your home - stacking dishes and organizing the drawers.. we don’t see these as creative, but we organize by size and shape, we seek to utilize the space “properly". We have different drawers and shelves for various function and forms of cutlery and dishware... it sounds absurd I’m certain but art is everywhere... it’s in everything we do... I feel if we broaden our understanding of what art and expression is, we will find multiple joys.
Expression as a human being is paramount. If we don’t express our experiences we can literally lose who we are as a culture as a people. When I’m teaching, I’m attempting to share this broad view of culture, identity, personal expression... I believe since many of our young people have so much time to occupy, they need the arts maybe even more than generations before us.