Edward Clay Wright Jr., passed away on November 23, 2019.
Edward Clay Wright Jr., known professionally by Clay Wright, is a native of Denver Colorado, and a 1970 graduate of Manual High School. He is largely self-taught, though he briefly attended the Colorado Institute Of Art, The Art Students League of Denver, and majored in art at the University Of Colorado at Boulder. Always one with a unique sense-of-humor, he refers to himself as being "99.9% self-taught-----like fine gold," and without conceit, refers to himself, and his art as, "Denver's best kept secret."
"I was fortunate in that I always knew I would become a professional artist, since the time I was very young----all I had to do was stay on the path." At an early age, he was an avid reader of art books, and books in general. If he wasn't at the local library reading, and studying art books, he could be found at the Denver Art Museum, perusing the scores of paintings on exhibition. One interesting anecdote is years later, starting in 1989 until 2010, this same local library---The Central Library, he visited as a kid began to purchase published art prints from him for their archives. This outcome of events has a certain poetry about it, energetically speaking. As a teenager and young adult, he would also visit the various art galleries in the metro area.. "As I was growing up," he says, "there were a few other kids in the neighborhood that had a bit of artistic talent, however, I was the only one who became a professional, through dedication and hard work. Despite the many distractions, hardships and constant uncertainty of a steady income, I was determined to succeed." In fact, he said he taught himself to paint starting at the age fifteen, by doing drawings and re-creations of 17th and 19th Century Dutch and French Master's paintings, such as Van Dyke, Rubens, Ingres and Bouguereau, among others. He says," This was excellent practice," and a practice he continues to this day.
In 1973, after attending the University Of Colorado, Clay began looking for work as an illustrator, contacting an array of advertising agencies and businesses in the area----presenting a portfolio of drawings and photos of original paintings. His first "real" art project, as he describes it, was illustrations for The Denver Nuggets basketball team. I series of other impressive projects would soon follow, including thirty illustrations for Mountain Bell, Adolph Coors, Pepsi Cola and others. He was soon proficient in editorial, product, advertising illustration and graphic design.
The highlight in his career as an illustrator was being chosen as "The Official Artist," for "World Youth Day 1993," which included the visit of Pope John Paul II, to the mile High City of Denver. He was responsible for the majority of major art works for sale and exhibit during this extraordinary event. In fact, his "portrait of the pontiff" was presented to Pope John Paul II, having been signed by himself, and then Denver Mayor, Wellington E. Webb. Due to logistics and security measures, Clay narrowly missed a rare opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II. He followed up this accomplishment went a rendition of Mayor Webb and first lady, Wilma Webb as a holiday greeting card, as well as a very prestigious portrait of "three generations" of the A.B. Hirshfeld patriarchs; commissioned by Barry Hirshfeld, a respected civic and business leader in Colorado. Shortly thereafter, he sought work in portraiture, from other business and religious figures in the Denver and Boulder Colorado community. He was even fortunate to paint a few baptismal pieces for local churches.
In the mid1980's, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the late African American actor, Paul Winfield; having met him while he was performing in a play in Denver, entitled, "Ceremonies In Dark Old Men," with his wife, and future mother of his children Shahadah James. He was also contracted to create art work for "The Children's Diabetes Foundation, chaired by billionaire oil man Marvin Davis, and wife Barbara Davis. In 1990, he approached the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, that subsequently led to him creating the first illustrated-----and highly successful tourism poster for the city of Denver, entitled, "Denver The Mile High Experience." Just recently, in 2010, he painted a sequel tourism poster was created my him for the now called ,
"Visit Denver," to include all the new venues, such as the Pepsi Center, Invesco Field, at Mile High, Coors Field, and most importantly, the new Denver International Airport.
In the late 1980's, Clay Wright decided to focus more on art that addressed his heritage as an African American. During this period of time, Clay contacted the Martin Luther King Jr. family, and the King Center in Atlanta. Thereafter he teamed up with them to co-publish his painted montage of Dr. King, entitled, "Believe In The Dream." This dynamic image of Dr. King was initially sold at the King Center in Atlanta, then nation-wide. In fact, it is still being sold in galleries and print shops around the country. After introducing this published piece to the national print market, he was on his way to create numerous images for publishing as well. At one point, he had publishers in Atlanta, Washington DC., San Diego, Denver, Chicago, and two in New York. He also found time in his busy schedule to serve as art director of Street Talk magazine, was employed as a visual artist at Computer Image Corporation, share his art with children in the local school system, and participate in various art festivals, including the Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and Chicago. As a Denverite, it was a special honor to have been chosen to exhibit in the sought after Cherry Creek Arts Festival. He went on to exhibit at the People's Fair, Taste of Colorado, Buell Theater, as well as other venues.
His impressive output in the 1990's included a four by eight foot mural for the historic '20h Street Recreation Center, illustrations for billboards, bus designs and art for RTD, (Regional Transportation District) a commemorative mini print of his Malcolm X painting, for the United States Postal Service, and painting over forty original works of art for publishing. The majority of these published historic, religious, inspirational and romantic images can be found today on the Internet, hosted on the sites of numerous distributors and publishers. These can be viewed by going on Google or Yahoo, and doing a search under his full name, Edward Clay Wright Jr.
Along with his talents as a visual artist, Clay has been involved in writing a novel based on the "Legend Of John Henry," as well as other stories. He looks forward to publishing these in the near future. He has been recently contacted by a notable person of color, to consider collaborating in a joint venture to produce a screenplay based largely on his "John Henry" literary efforts.. In addition to this, he has also been engaged in research over the last two years on a major historical painting called, "Journey," which depicts African Americans in America. This epic painting which will measure three and a half feet by twenty feet in length, will feature over eighty famous African Americans, including statesman, educators, religious and political leaders, athletes, writers, scientists etc. Clay refers to this as his "Sistine Chapel," due to the scope and complexity of the endeavor. He is currently seeking and establishing funding to ultimately publish art prints from it for sale to the general public, but it will be also available in public schools and public libraries throughout the country.
In 2013, Clay completed an official portrait of the Honorable Judge Alexander Williams Jr., District Court Judge of Baltimore, which will hang in its State Capital. In that same year, he was commissioned to paint two works of art for current Mayor, Michael B. Hancock, as well as an original painting of "The Unsinkable" Molly Brown, for The Molly Brown House Museum, purchased by the city of Denver.
With all his "God Given" talent, and obvious dedication and hard work over the years, he is quick to point out, it would not have been possible without the support of his family and friends throughout some difficult times. "Equally important," he says, "was being able to share my accomplishments with those who understood what my art meant to me, and respected it." He continued, "My supreme thanks and love goes to my parents, Edward C. Wright Sr., and Frances Wright. Special thanks and gratitude goes to my brothers and sisters, and their families, Geraldine, Charlotte, Richard, Melvyn and Glenn, whose help, generosity, kindness and love allowed me to pursue my life-long passion as an artist. For that love and devotion, I will forever indebted. A special measure of love and appreciation goes to my late younger brother Ernest, who encouraged me in my early creative efforts; who himself also showed much promise as an artist, but due to a progressive childhood illness, that caught up with him in early adulthood, the fruits of his desires and abilities as a creative person would never be realized. A good measure of the art I have created is in his memory."
"I also have three beautiful children, Dante, Raina and Brianna, and two wonderful grandchildren, Cyrus and Micah, who are works of precious art in themselves, I can never surpass as an artist."
Edward Clay Wright Jr.
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