2008 / Lenka Clayton meeting the mayor and townspeople of Lenka, a small village of 202 people in Slovakia
Lenka Clayton is an interdisciplinary artist whose work considers, exaggerates, and alters the accepted rules of everyday life, extending the familiar into the realms of the poetic and absurd.
In previous works, she has searched for and photographed every person mentioned by name in a German newspaper; worked with artists who identify as blind to recreate Brancusi’s Sculpture for the Blind from a spoken description; and reconstituted a lost museum from a sketch found in an archive. For three years she was the world’s first Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood after she founded a self-directed artist residency that took place inside her own home and life as a mother of two young children. On Mother’s Day 2016 she launched An Artist Residency in Motherhood as an open-source project. There are currently over 600 Artists-in-Residence-in-Motherhood in 41 countries.
In 2017 Clayton and collaborator Jon Rubin debuted a major new work ...circle through New York commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum that took place at the Guggenheim and in five other locations in a circle throughout the city including a pet store, a church and a Punjabi TV station. Other recent exhibitions include Object Temporarily Removed, at the The Fabric Workshop and Museum Philadelphia, Talking Pictures at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and A Measure of Humanity, at the Columbus Museum of Art. Clayton and Rubin are debuting a new project at the The 57th Carnegie International, opening Fall 2018 at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.
Clayton has been artist-in-residence at Headlands Center for the Arts (2017), The Fabric Workshop and Museum (2014–2017) and The Palais de Tokyo Insta Residency (2018). She has received a Pittsburgh Foundation/Heinz Endowments Creative Development Grant, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award and in 2014 was presented a Carol R. Brown Award for Creative Achievement. Her work has appeared in Frieze, Creative Nonfiction, Esquire Russia, The Daily Telegraph, The New Yorker blog, The New York Times, and in the publication "Typewriter Art" amongst others.
Clayton’s work is held in many public and private collections including The Fabric Workshop and Museum, The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Blanton Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Essay and index to works (click each title to view) by Dan Byers
Lists of Lenka
by Dan Byers, Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Carnegie Museum of Art & co-curator of the 2013 Carnegie International. Essay originally published in June 2013 by MOCA Cleveland for the exhibition Realization is Better than Anticipation, June 28–October 13, 2013. Reprinted here by kind permission of the author and MOCA Cleveland.
Lenka Clayton makes use of people, places, and things. By counting, alphabetizing, employing the possibilities of the post office, local newspaper, and the most common domestic objects – and doing all of these things often almost to their utmost – she transforms both the world around her, and the way we see that world. It’s no surprise then that museums are often the site of her exploration, being that they purport to provide order, but often end up accumulating and displaying with the same levels of subjectivity, exaggeration, and subtly-laced playfulness and even wonder, which are the hallmarks of much of Clayton’s work. What follows is an inventory and classification of many of her projects.
Number of times Lenka counts things (and sometimes puts them in order): 12
Essay by Megan Lykins Reich
Mustaches & Motherhood
by Megan Lykins Reich, Curator at MOCA Cleveland. Essay originally published in June 2013 by MOCA Cleveland for the exhibition Realization is Better than Anticipation, June 28–October 13, 2013. Reprinted here by kind permission of the author and MOCA Cleveland.
“Our baby is due tomorrow. I forgot this strangest of feelings of waiting quietly for everything in the world to change.” — Lenka Clayton, Studio Diary entry, May 19, 2013
Lenka Clayton became a mother when she gave birth to her son, Otto, in April 2011. Five months later, I welcomed motherhood for the second time when my son Jasper was born. Motherhood changes you. Yet, you are still so much the woman you were before motherhood that it is often hard to reconcile the two realities. Right after my daughter Piper’s birth in 2009, I existed in a liminal space filled with joy, confusion, pain, and anxiety. This dramatic haze lifted when my daughter and I had a “moment”—a kind of intimate exchange, an unspoken affirmation of a new world—and something fell into place. A shift at the core. Perhaps the moment I accepted motherhood.
In September 2012, Clayton began an official Artist Residency in Motherhood, created by the artist and supported by The Pittsburgh Foundation. It was originally set to last until Otto’s second birthday, but was extended by the birth of Clayton’s daughter, Early, in May 2013. A steadfast experiment in combining two seemingly incompatible experiences, the project pushes together the open, autonomous freedom of artist residencies and the often isolating, bound routines of motherhood. It provides for things like materials and a travel allowance but also requires accountability. Through the residency, Clayton has produced numerous musings, artworks, project ideas, and collaborative activities. Reviewing this output as a curator, the work is prolific, smart, sensitive, relevant. Reviewing it as a mother, it is authentic, tender, bewildering, accurate. Clayton works within the physical and emotional spaces surrounding her, often starting with a simple idea or mundane object. Nearly everything, from the items her son places in his mouth (an impressive range) to discarded ephemera in a tiny thrift store, is fodder for Clayton. She applies an intense, compassionate focus to these materials in order to draw out hidden, lost, or new meaning. Clayton’s subtle mediations yield significant, often transformative outcomes, as revealed in the suite of her found text works featured in Realization is Better than Anticipation.
Ta Da (2013) is a small blue spiral-bound notebook Clayton found at an estate sale in a child’s magic kit. The cover is hand-decorated with two pieces of electrical tape that form wonky vertical black lines. Inside, an unknown author hand-wrote only two things: an underlined header, “Magic Show,” and one bulleted phrase, “Find the Card.” Clayton had a tiny mechanism mounted to the book so that its cover slowly opens and then quickly shuts, allowing only momentary glances at the content within. Ta Da emphasizes the excitement and magic of discovery, both for the original author, finding a new hobby, and the current viewer, glimpsing the book’s “secret.” The work also signifies the struggle to maintain the energy and commitment required to transform curiosity into expertise.
Museum visitor looking at Ta Da! MOCA Cleveland, 2013