Ryan Clayton admits his interactive and immersive approach to art lies somewhere between painting and live rock ’n’ roll. And he’s totally fine with that.
A recent exhibit at the Race Street studio Bobby on Drums manifested what makes his installations so appealing. Throughout the evening, around 120 people wandered through the main gallery space, itself flooded with vivid swirls of psychedelic colors emanating from a projector. In the same room, a smaller space was cordoned off by reflective walls and fluorescent lights that trapped visitors in an illusory maze of reflections that seemingly drifted off into infinity. A nearby room allowed guests to make their own art by dripping neon-colored paint onto a spinning canvas under black lights.
It was definitely trippy.
The 37-year-old Dallas native describes his projects as psychedelic art, installations mainly that revolve around vibrant swirling pastels mimicking the hallucinations experienced by people on acid or ’shrooms. Psychedelic art has been around since the early 1960s, but Clayton says the term today means immersive elements and the heavy use of technology.
Until recently, he thought he was alone in his pursuits. That all changed last year when he stumbled upon a group of underground artists, Love Pit, at the Womb Gallery in Oklahoma City. The friends he made, Clayton said, are part of a network of around 400 experimental artists from around the world. The group is partly a networking tool to help creative types share ideas and support one another.
It was that meeting, in part, that motivated Clayton and his wife/collaborator, Vanessa Clayton, to launch Fever Dream Interactive. Every show is different, Clayton said, but all of them are based on hands-on mixed media, interactive projections, and optical art. You may have seen Clayton’s work at recent shows by local underground bands Tidals, Botany, and New Fumes. Using a camera to follow the movement of the musicians onstage, he funnels the data through Microsoft Kinect, a softwar program that alters the projections in real time.
Fever Dream Interactive is more than an artistic outlet for the UTA grad (2009). Clayton has been dealing with social anxiety issues his whole life, and after taking a software programming job last year that allowed him to work from home, he realized that he was regressing socially.
“I was hardly getting out,” he recalled. Putting on shows “forced” him “to be around people and work through those issues.”
Even now, he often performs wearing masks, which helps him control the stress of being in large crowds. The façade, he said, helps him imagine he’s another person.
Clayton’s next show is Saturday but not in Fort Worth. Or even Dallas. Or Austin. It’s in Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s joining the Fort Worth electronica duo Starbass for a concert. The show will be streamed via tribesmagazine.org
Clayton is also working on a coloring book. Produced by Austin-based Weird Destination Productions, Let’s Create Something Magical includes black-and-white psychedelia-inspired images by 80 artists, including Clayton and a handful of other North Texas artists, that can be custom painted by the purchaser.
Clayton said his goal has always remained the same, to create immersive experiences that connect “sight, sound, and feeling.” His unique approach doesn’t give him a commodity to sell at the end of the night, but he plans on recouping costs through his live music collaborations and ticket sales to future shows.