When I hear the word “privileged,” I automatically assume that it has to do with wealth, expensive tastes, consecutive poor choices with someone else’s money, and the term “asshole” comes speedily to mind. Oddly enough, I coincidentally envision a neon colored Hummer and my memory sense immediately smells baby oil. In my understanding of the word, it means those who have the luxury of waking up whenever the hell they feel like it, rolling out of bed in their custom emblem plaid pajamas, slipping on their mink fur slippers to wander down the Persian rug–adorned hall toward the kitchen bathed in marble, overlooking a exquisitely trimmed yard, more than likely located somewhere in shithole Florida. What I don’t think of when I hear the word “privileged” is raw talent, someone who maintains this air of humility about them, surrounded by a support system of people that encourage them to pursue their dreams and aspirations, and has an eagerness to become successful. When I hear the word privileged, local artist Clay Cavender does not come to mind.
However, Cavender is privileged in a different sense of the word, in that he remains deafeningly humble about the beautiful and broad mediums of art that he creates, the supportive friends around him that supply him with steady art projects, his professors who teach him and show alongside him at art shows, and his family that has encouraged him to create since he was a child. When I meet with Cavender, he talks about finishing college this semester from Utah State University with his BFA (within the unheard of standard four years as an art major), how he hopes to take his art to Europe, possibly be the creative designer over a fashion label, conceivably dabble in producing music and eventually make a living out of creating, it’s obvious he has a plan. “I went to Utah State because it was far enough from Salt Lake that I could distance myself and grow on my own. Being in Salt Lake, it is easy to get distracted … get caught up in activities that you won’t get long term benefit from. If you stick yourself in a room with nowhere to go, then at the end of the day you are still in a room with nowhere to go … you might as well be doing something that helps you out long term.” Cavender is a dreamer but with business savvy, drive and versatility that can potentially make him unstoppable in the art or fashion world. Cavender has dabbled in a large variety of mediums, from print making, line drawing, block printing, acrylics, oils, spray paint and lithography. He has shown his works at Fice, as well as several other upstanding fine art galleries alongside his art mentors and teachers of USU. While being an undergraduate and having already shown at some of the major galleries in Salt Lake City, Cavender has seemingly already outgrown SLC’s little art pond. I asked Cavender what it is that he is consistently drawing. He says, “Paisley … I started [drawing] it because someone told me I couldn’t do it … it’s a visual language … any pattern you want, it’s just finding lines.”
Some artists I know complain about getting stuck in a rut with their art, sometimes for years, unable to steer away from the same style. Cavender, though, is so versatile that his works, ranging from skate decks that he printed on, screen prints and line drawings are so broadly different in style and medium that they look like a different artist created each one. Cavender’s versatility shows in his simplest of answers—when I ask what his favorite color is Cavender says, “It depends on the day … there’s different personalities to each.”
I ask Cavender who has inspired him most. He mentions how supportive his parents are and how grateful to his family he is for their constant encouragement. “I wasn’t able to watch television as a kid … we were allowed two hours a week and that two hours went to National Geographic specials … so I was always drawing … mostly dragons.” He goes on to thank his close friends, as well as his professors, and as he gushes his appreciation for those in his life. Cavender continues to explain how he idolizes So Me (Bertrand Lagros de Langeron), an artist he admires for his versatility and music production skills that also incorporates his graphic design artistry, whose art also centers around a collective of mutual friends creating different art forms.
Cavender is the next upcoming artist in Salt Lake and I highly encourage you scoop up some of his artwork before he moves to New York, starts dating a model, produces a music video for some abstract Swedish noise band, is a regular fixture at Cannes Film festival and refers to Aesop Rock as one of his homeboys. I doubt that even with his imminent success he will ever wear a gold chain or be in any way associated with poor Florida choices and baby oil. You can see Cavender’s work in the Utah State University 2014 Graphic Design BFA exhibition on April 18, held at 256 E. 100 S. in downtown Salt Lake for Gallery Stroll. You can also find Cavender’s artwork on Instagram (@claycavender) and in his online portfolio.