Clay James is a native of Catawba County and was raised in Maiden, North Carolina. He received his bachelor’s degree in theater arts from what was then Lenoir-Rhyne College. In 1979 his professional work began at Hickory Community Theater as the Technical Director working with Charles Jeffers. After two years at Hickory Community Theater he moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he worked in technical theater until 1986.
In 1986 he finally settled for a while in the San Francisco Bay Area. For twenty years he worked as a Scenic Designer, a Technical Director, and an independent contractor with a myriad of Bay Area theater companies including but not limited to, Woodminster Amphitheater, Berkeley Repertory Company, Diablo Light Opera Company, Lorraine Hansberry Theater, and Theater Rhinoceros.
He made the decision in 2000 to go back to school for graduate work, instead of theater he decided to pursue his other love, painting. In 2004 he received his MFA in fine art, with a concentration in painting at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He has been painting for nearly the same amount of time he has worked in theater, and his work has been exhibited both nationally and regionally.
2006 brought Clay back to North Carolina with his wife Rose, where he took the job of Technical Director for Hickory Community Theater and stayed with that position until 2013. At that time, he was offered and took the job of program coordinator of the Art Program at Lenoir- Rhyne University. In 2018 he decided to leave collegiate teaching and Lenoir-Rhyne University and go back to designing and building scenery for Hickory Community Theater.
“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary." ~Pablo Picasso
My work is my interpretation of where I have been, what I have done and what I believe to be important. I believe it is not necessarily the big moments that bring meaning to living, but instead, all those seemingly unimportant little moments. The main titles of the work tell you a lot about how I see the world around me. For example: Take the works titled “Terrain”. These paintings record those moments, although it is usually only a glancing moment, or an image of a long-ago memory, when you are simply amazed at how the combination of nature and man creates a wonderfully incredible composition. One of the things I enjoyed most was flying from west coast to east coast. I loved the patterns and the imagery created by the landscapes so high in the air. A lot of the work from “Terrain” is based on that imagery and memory, a visual
recording of those simple moments that were in their own a delight. “If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Edward Hopper
This is why I paint. - Clay