BYU art student turns the walls of Gallery 303 into his own canvas

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Gallery 303 in the HFAC displays Stephen Clawson’s works entitled, “This is Stephen Clawson.” (Allison McArthur)

Senior art student Stephen Clawson filled the walls of a Harris Fine Arts Center gallery to invite visitors to engage with a representation of his art process.

His works filled every wall of Gallery 303 from top to bottom. He even displayed supplies from his studio to allow visitors to know what goes on behind the pieces, including a box of Cheez-its and a flat of Bang energy drinks.

Clawson said he wanted to fill the space with as many pieces as he could; he hoped to replicate his process of making art in the way he arranged his gallery.

“When I am in the studio making work I am just grabbing materials and putting them onto a canvas. That is part of what I did in (the gallery) — I just brought a bunch of stuff in and tried to squeeze it onto the walls,” he said.

Just as Clawson flips through pages and pages of magazines to find a picture or text he wants to use in a piece, he explained how wants gallery visitors to pick out their favorite parts.

“More than having a specific meaning, what I want is to put enough stuff in there that once people get up closer, they are saying ‘Oh, that’s what that is.’ And make little connections that I didn’t really intend to happen,” Clawson said.

He said he likes how the art allows viewers to create their own interpretations rather than having a specific meaning behind each piece.

Allison McArthur
One wall of Gallery 303 in the HFAC willed with pieces of Clawson’s work. (Allison McArthur)

“It’s a bit of a disappointment to my art teachers and the high art world that I don’t have a deep meaning, but I want to make something that is fun to look at,” Clawson said. He enjoys the creative process and hearing what others gather from viewing his artwork.

Gallery director Eric Edvalson said since Gallery 303 is the largest individual space, he is impressed by the way Clawson has taken a “maximalist approach” with each piece and the way he has filled the gallery with so many pieces. “It takes a prolific amount of work to fill the space in that way,” Edvalson said.

Though Clawson’s love and excitement for art began in elementary school while making a diorama in his third grade class, he was introduced to the abstract style in high school and has been developing his craft ever since.

He said the creative process begins with yard sales and gathering materials from magazines or what some might consider trash. Clawson said he could put a pizza box and a magazine from the 40s together to juxtapose each other. After building up the work by adding colors and text, the materials all work together as a whole and the juxtaposition disappears. He said he also enjoys using texts because those who might not relate to abstract art can still cling onto an idea and form an impression from the work.

Issac Galland, a gallery visitor, said when he first entered the gallery he noticed all of the colors. It was as if Galland could see what was on the artist’s mind, like pieces of thought were spread along each canvas, he said. He was astounded by the amount of work that filled the gallery.

“I am impressed with how much is going, with all the intricate details and designs,” Galland said.

Clawson covered the walls of Gallery 303 as if they were his own canvas and still sees it as a work in progress. The gallery exhibit “This is Stephen Clawson” closes Oct. 22.

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