Photography Credit:

Clifton Clay
Birth Date:


Artist Gallery
Clifton (Cliff) Clay was born in Mississippi in 1935. His heritage is both African American and Native American. Both his mother and grandmother are Choctaw, with his grandmother being born on a reservation. Clay spent his early years in Oklahoma, California, and Arizona until his family settled in Cleveland when he was in his teens. Clay graduated from John Jay High School in Cleveland. After graduating from high school, Clay attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and studied under Paul B. Travis and John P. Miller. As a young man, he worked out West, including as a ranch hand – Clay has retained this interest throughout his life. He has also worked at the Karamu House as a painter, painting houses.. Many of the symbols found in Clay’s work are related to African art and are his contemporary take on the subject. In “The Lion Hunt”, George A. Zetzer wrote that “Clay’s abstract painting expresses a particular attitude each of us has towards the object. One can see a different attitude in each hunter as they seem to dance around their quarry”. Clay comments that a friend told him “Lion Hunt is Native American, I told him no, they don’t have lions”. A cross between Native American and African American. “Lion Hunt” was one of his first paintings for sale and the Canton Museum of Art bought it.