Karlsen Clay was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The eldest son of a Russian Orthodox priest, Clay’s childhood was spent in church drawing serpents and monsters to pass the hours.
Escaping the isolation of Pennsylvania’s farmlands, Clay attended the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York where he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design. In 1999 he followed a girl-of-his-fancy to New York City where he worked as an inventor by day and designed tattoos in the evenings for extra money.
In 2001, Clay moved with his fiancé to what he would soon consider to be his true home—Los Angeles. Fascinated by the people and culture, he began writing about his acquaintances and first explored paper-cutting as a medium for expression. These essays and artwork culminated into Clay’s first book, Gendergarten (2014), which inwardly focused on Clay’s experiences while living and raising kids within a predominantly gay neighborhood.
Following the release of Gendergarten, Clay’s artwork gained momentum through corporate commissions on a local and national level. In July of 2017, Clay proudly released his second book, Access Mundane—a contrasting, outwardly-focused portrait-study and snapshot of the people within the City of West Hollywood at the turn of the century.
In addition to his fine arts, Clay works as the creative director for a Fortune 200 aerospace and defense corporation headquartered in California’s South Bay. He lives in West Hollywood with his wife and their two children and can often be found sipping a glass of wine in the shade at LACMA.