Clay was born and raised in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. The son of poets Marnie Prange and Greg Pape, Clay graduated with a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Montana in 2013. Clay currently lives and works in Austin, Texas.
Clay’s entrance into the art world was marked by a deep-seeded urge to translate his evolving understanding of the surrounding landscape into objects of art. Beginning with expressive representations of the Western Montana Landscape, Clay began to move away from representation and traditional media towards motions and materials that spoke more directly of not only the beauty of this region but of the conflicted relationship between the natural and non-natural within it. The landscape in Clay’s art went from representations made of pastel and acrylic to abstracted and reduced collages of tar, concrete, and ash. These paintings have evolved to include such materials as joint compound, wood glue, sand, asphalt, tar, glass, insulation foam, resin, etc.
As his approach to material and subject evolved so too did Clay’s concern for and awareness of climate change and the intellectual and creative challenges that follow. Upon receiving a Watson scholarship his senior year at UM, Clay began researching environmental art of the past five decades, focusing on the social and political aspects of recent eco-art theory and practice. This line of inquiry continues to inform Clay’s painting as well as his performance art and other ongoing projects.