Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Nigel Clouse and I am a multidisciplinary artist who has lived in the valley for 13 years. I was born and raised in Winchester, Indiana; a rural community located in the Rust Belt. I completed my undergraduate degree in digital design at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and worked in the graphic design industry for over a decade. I am best known for my pop surrealist work incorporating femme fatales, pop culture references, and dystopian themes.
How did you get your start?
I spent many childhood summers enrolled in community art and computer courses intended for adults. These programs constructed a foundation in both traditional art and computer programming—fields which eventually merged within my work. I pursued art through high school, completed all available courses during my junior year, and began taking college courses at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, Indiana.
I was one of the first students to graduate with a degree in digital design from the Art Academy of Cincinnati—a fledgling program introduced as computers began to replace traditional media in the design industry.
Relocating to Phoenix to launch my graphic design career, while simultaneously developing a successful website showcasing my performance and street art, I never felt comfortable mixing my artistic persona with my corporate identity—I ended the project after five years.
A career in the design industry provided me with an opportunity to refine my technical skills, but the Great Recession forced me to change tactics. I moved to California to pursue my doctorate degree in psychology, worked for the University of California: San Diego, and spent time examining my identity and purpose.
My father passed away from cancer in 2012 and I moved back from California to help him for the last month of his life. I witnessed a man slowly wasting away after sacrificing everything for his family while working at a job he hated for over 30 years. The disorienting dilemma I confronted after his passing allowed me to envision the future I wanted for my family. I conceived my Dystopian Delights series shortly after his death and have been working on the project for five years.
Never have I considered myself an artist until recently; I believe the title of artist is earned through the melding of skill and aesthetic, which combine to form a personal style—continually honed through experience. The series has allowed me to define my style, acknowledge myself as an artist, and develop an understanding of the world and my place within it.
What inspires you?
A variety of subjects, including art, history, music, literature, and technology; but my favorite is film. I was introverted as a child and spent much of my time with my maternal grandmother; a bootlegger from the time of prohibition with ties stretching back to the infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud. My grandfather passed away when I was young, which allowed us to spend copious amounts of time together.
She loved to watch the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and other silver screen classics; introducing me to film noir, Citizen Kane, and Psycho. She sparked my interest in cinema and I find this love of film continues to inspire and influence my work.
I believe the life and work of Andy Warhol to be highly inspirational. Discovering Warhol through a chance encounter at the library early in life immediately changed how I experienced art. Warhol is the “American Dream” personified; a socially awkward child coming from a destitute immigrant family who was able to achieve his goals despite the limitations of his background. Not only was he able to achieve his dream, but he did so with such conviction it forever altered the course of art history.
What do you like about AZ?
I enjoy the tenacity of Arizona as a state, both in historical terms and the ability of communities to adapt to change. This is a state where the Hohokam thrived as a culture, the Spanish sought cities of gold, desperados roamed the Wild West, and miners eked out an existence underground. I especially adore the old mining towns, which have reimagined themselves as artist communities and continue to thrive.
The Arizona sky at dusk is one of the most beautiful sights I have seen—vivid colors contrasted against desolate and foreboding landscapes. The Sonoran Desert has always reminded me of a Salvador Dali painting with warm hues and expansive vistas. Who doesn’t want to wake-up in a Dali painting on a daily basis?
Where can we see you(r) work?
My website is the best place to see pieces as I keep it updated with current work; available in my online store. I keep my Instagram account active by sharing work and tidbits of my life—social media has been an interesting experiment for a self-proclaimed recluse. I haven’t shown my work in a gallery since I graduated college, but I am actively seeking space in the valley if any curators are interested in an emerging artist.
What would you like to accomplish before you die?
Immortality. I believe art affords the artist the possibility to defy death; creating works which outlive the physical being, while continuing to communicate complex concepts, experiences, and visions beyond the grave. This is how we intimately understand the sorrow of Van Gogh, the madness of Munch, and the whimsy of Warhol. Artwork can readily survive the passage of time and provide a glimpse into an artist’s understanding of the world.
What is your mantra?
“The night time is the right time.” I have been a night owl since I was born; the early morning hours are when my creativity and productivity are at their peak. I am the primary caretaker of my son, which means nap times, nights, and weekends are when I am able to devout my full attention to art.