Clayton Pond remembers his Hiram art class fondly – the first he ever experienced – fondly, so fondly, in fact that the now-renowned artist and printmaker has donated a significant collection of his works to grace the halls of buildings here at the college.
Pond has donated 21 of his limited edition silk screen prints from various periods of his career to Hiram. The works will be framed and hung in various buildings and locations around campus.
The donation came about after Pond met Hiram President Thomas V. Chema at an alumni event in Atlanta, where the artist lives, last year. Pond hosted President Chema at his home and studio and agreed to give some works to the College. In January 2011, to commemorate 50 years since his Hiram days, Pond discussed his career at an exhibition of his works at the Art Gallery in the Gelbke fine Arts Center.
Pond spent three years at Hiram, but did not graduate, moving on to earn his BFA from Carnegie-Melon University in Pittsburgh and an MFA from the Pratt Institute in New York City. He said he remembers Hiram fondly and hopes to return some time to see his works.
“I was born and raised in Long Island, but my mother was from Circleville, Ohio,” he said. “She said I should go to school in the Midwest where the “nice people,” as she called them, were. There was only one art teacher at Hiram when I was there, but that first art class (with Professor Paul Rochford) really set me on the path.”
Pond, who pioneered silk screen print making processes in the 1960’s and ‘70s, and gained notoriety in association with the New Realism and Pop Art communities of artists of that time, who converged on new York City’s Soho district. His early-career contemporaries included Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Tom Wesselmann (who also attended Hiram briefly in the early 1950’s).
Pond’s style, in paintings and prints transforms familiar objects, even utilitarian items like chairs, radiators, and fans – into monumental icons of American culture. His characteristic use of bold color, and glossy varnish techniques were self-taught and innovative, and have kept his work in demand to this day. He has had more than 70 one-man exhibitions in galleries, libraries, and universities, and his works are held in corporate, academic and private collections worldwide.
Pond said he adopted silk screen printing as his most frequent medium because it was the best way for him to “get” the type of images he wanted.
“I was a painter, really,” he said “there was hardly anybody doing silkscreens as art in the early days, it was all lithographs, and wood blocks, and etchings, but I thought it would be a new way to get the types of images I wanted. I went around to commercial silk screen printers, who were doing t-shirts and things, and learned as much as I could.”
Several of the works donated to Hiram include well-known prints Pond did for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, prior to the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program.
“They were looking for ways to interest people in the scientific possibilities of the shuttle program,” he said, “And I let my imagination go and focused on everyday things like the challenges of a pull chain toilet in a weightless environment, a crab floating in space, and other things people could relate to and that had a little bit of humor to them.”
.These days Pond continues to work on his painting and printmaking, and recently has been taking pieces and parts of some of his “mistakes” and recombining them into new works.
“Screen printing is a stencil process, and you have to run a separate screen for each color, and sometimes it doesn’t work, the paper isn’t right, or the image isn’t the way you wanted it,” he said, “So I’m going back and taking some of those mistakes, and putting parts of them together into pieces that are really like collages.”