Clayton Peshlakai

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Artist Statement


Clayton Peshlakai was born in the small town of Ft. Defiance, Arizona, on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Although he has no formal art education, Clayton’s involvement in art began at an early age when comic books and graphic novels sparked his interest. A combination of fantastic storytelling and exotic art helped him escape the world he lived in and create a world of his own. He first began drawing with pencil, then pen and ink, eventually incorporating watercolor. He constantly experimented with styles and techniques using watercolor and pen and ink—separately and together—never settling on just one. 

In his junior high school wood shop Clayton was exposed to drafting. To him technical drawing was a new form of art. It was rooted in discipline and education—two things he needed when there seemed to be no direction in life. His desire to excel in drafting boosted his grades, and Clayton was invited to attend a college prep high school for “gifted” Native Americans. Here he studied architecture, then went on to the local community college to pursue electrical engineering. 

While in college Clayton worked in numerous construction fields to support himself, gaining valuable experience that would benefit him later as a professional artist. Inspired by pipeline construction welders and their ability to manipulate and fuse metal, Clayton’s interest shifted from designing to building. Within a year he became a code-certified welder, obtaining the skills necessary to work with an assortment of metals. Over the next eight years he honed his craft in a variety of industrial fields. 

Clayton was introduced to sculpture fabrication in the early 1990s. As a project manager for a small metal art fabrication shop, he worked with artists of various backgrounds, including the late Allan Houser, Dan Namingha, and Bill Barrett, to help create their visions in metal. Art fabrication was a refreshing change from the industrial world and reconnected Clayton with his true passion of working with metals.

As a metal fabricator Clayton was satisfied with the challenges presented to him. But when he was contracted as an artist’s assistant for painter William Debilzan, he was bitten again by the painting bug.  He credits Debilzan with being a strong influence in his own painting style. 

Clayton Peshlakai has expanded into diverse avenues of art. His metal designs comprise sculpture, metal leaf wall pieces, jewelry, artistic furniture, and architectural accents. Even in his paintings, often rich in texture, his inner sculptor is evident. On canvas Peshlakai is most expressive with vivid colors, and certainly his color manipulation contributes to the beauty of his metal artwork. Contemporary Native American elements are woven into much of his art, regardless of medium or category. 

Clayton strives to create objects that stir the imagination in a positive light. By inspiring viewers he contributes to a harmonious, creative environment wherever his artwork is displayed. 

OWEN CONTEMPORARY  • 225 Canyon Road Santa Fe, NM 87501 • 505.820.0807 •