link to University of Utah Home link to Marriott Library Home
Off Campus Access - Log In

Utah Artists Project Logo

Clay Wagstaff

Clay Fred Wagstaff was born in Kanab, Utah in 1964. He is known as a semi-abstractionist landscape oil painter and for his rendering of poplars. He lives in Tropic, Utah.

Wagstaff earned a BFA from Brigham Young University in 1987 and an MFA from California State University in Long Beach in 1990. Wulf Barsch, Hagen Haltern, and Bruce Smith, professors at BYU, influenced Wagstaff toward a spiritualist vision in his art.

Landscape No. 21 (1991) and Late October Evening (1999) each won a merit award the Springville Museum of Art spring salon.Storm Over The Sevier (2000) is another example of his work. Landscape No. 125 (1990) is featured in the Springville Museum of Art permanent collection.

Biograph adapted from Artists of Utah.

Artist's Website

I see the world in terms of a balance between cosmos and chaos. Painting for me is the process of continually seeking, and attempting to work out, that balance.

The landscape environments I have lived and worked in have engaged me deeply my entire life. My early years were spent living in a semi-rural setting adjacent to a golf course. My strongest memories of that time are of viewing the manicured, park-like course juxtaposed with the natural, uncultivated land surrounding it. Now, I live in southern Utah in fairly remote desert country where I enjoy the dry, clean air, clear starry nights, and the presence of strong landscape elements. I love the trees, rocks, and sky that surround me here.

In my paintings I attempt to balance all elements into a harmonious whole by employing Greek orthogons (The mathematical formulas developed by the Greeks for use in building, sculpture, paintings, etc. were found to elicit strong emotional response). I also use "Dynamic Symmetry", a method developed by Jay Hambridge in the 1920's, in planning my paintings. Both the Greeks and Jay Hambridge depend heavily on the idea that cosmos (strict order) and chaos (complete disorder) ought to blend together into "wholeness".

Another influence in my work is the theme of "homecoming" addressed in great epic literature such as The Odyssey and Pilgrim's Progress. This is a home of the spirit and the heart, as well as a familiar physical place. I make use of various pictorial elements such as rivers, constellations, paths and fields, intending to suggest the idea of a remembered "home" or, the act of "journeying towards home".

Sometimes I intend for the trees in my paintings, and other elements, to be metaphoric representations. However, I don't feel it is necessary for viewers to "know" my personal symbols in order to feel that my work—if it is successful in blending chaos and cosmos into a beautiful whole—has a spiritual base. I would like others to feel peace and order when they view my work, and perhaps, a desire to "return home".


I reside in the small (population less than 500), fairly remote, town of Tropic, Utah—situated under the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park—with my wife and two daughters. We have lived in Garfield County for twelve years, the last eight in Tropic where we purchased an old pioneer home. We have been busy improving the home, and caring for the lot—many old fruit trees to prune, etc.—ever since. I have been painting professionally for fifteen years, since I finished school. I was born in 1964 in Kanab, Utah.

Biography courtesy of the Artist.

Artist's Website


Olpin, Robert S., Seifrit, William C., and Swanson, Vern G. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, Gibb Smith Press, 1999.

 Last Modified 6/20/18