Dominique Clayton is the owner of Dominique Gallery, a contemporary gallery based in Los Angeles, CA, focusing on works by underrepresented artists
When did you first begin your journey in the arts?
My journey in the arts first started in high school in LA. I took a studio arts class and wasn't that great at drawing and painting, but realized how much I loved the environment and world of art. I was much more interested in talking about art and learning about it. Later on as a college student in New York at Columbia University, I found myself making frequent trips to galleries and museums like the nearby Studio Museum of Harlem and really furthered my interest there.
Were there any specific events that led to your decision to support artists by opening Dominique Gallery?
Yes - love brought me to it. I had been working in film and tv and live performing arts for several years. Then I met my husband who is an artist. When we got married and started our family, we thought about ways to sort of live independently and raise our daughters. I saw his struggles as an artist and realized the main things artists need - time, money, space, and support. I tried to provide that for him and that became the seeds of the business, enabling me to provide that for others.
You focus on the underrepresented – specifically BIPOC, female and queer artists. What has the public’s response to your roster been like so far?
I try not to pay attention to the response. Rather I focus on my responsibility. I’m a Black person first and foremost. I’m a Woman. And I’m a mother. Those three things make life very challenging for me in some ways but also have opened doors for me in other ways. So its an honor and a gift for me to intentionally shed some light on those who aren’t the first to be seen or acknowledged or chosen. I know what it feels like to have all the credentials, do all the work, and still be missed. So I make sure to say yes to as many as I can who are deserving.
How do you foresee the diversity of the art world, as well as our overall creative outlook, changing over the years to come?
It’s going to be a roller coaster. It’s a trend as are most things in the art world. The only way it can be sustainable and true is if people accept the honesty of the racism and elitism that is the foundation of the art world. No one really wants to do that. That takes all the fun away. And diverse people can be elitist too. So yes it will go up and down and diversity will take on new meanings and voices.
What kinds of qualities, aesthetic or otherwise, do you look for when choosing
the artists that you will showcase?
I truly appreciate the fluctuation between vulnerability, simplicity and depth. I look for artists who are clear in what they want to say and express.
Can you recall any specific experiences you’ve had with an exhibit and/or artist
that were especially fulfilling to you?
My recent presentation with Future Fairs was truly fulfilling on so many levels. It was a beautiful intersection of all the things that are so important to me in the art world. The fair itself was founded by two women and its model is collaborative and intimate. Each step in the process was so pleasant and supportive and I was able to include my friends from Black Women in Visual Art as program collaborators. Most importantly I was able to bring in an artist, Khidr Joseph, who I’ve been working with for a little while now to do some really powerful work that not only sparked really important conversations, but also affirmed his own practice which reminded me of why I loved doing what I do.
What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Seeing visions and dreams come to life and playing with perceptions of reality.
What are some of the challenges that you face?
Having to answer questions about culture. I also face challenges protecting my artists from dismissive and reductive categorization. Their art isn’t always about Blackness. But then again cultural identity is something that is hard to be removed from.
Are there any areas of improvement artists should be aware of in terms of the
submission and exhibition process?
Don’t make me have to hunt for information about you or your work. Plain and simple. Treat your arts practice like any other business. When you go to a restaurant, you’d expect the place to either list the items with clear pictures and descriptions or be able to verbally articulate the specials in an effective and enticing way. If that’s not the case, why would you dine there? Art is the same way.
Do you have future plans for Dominique Gallery beyond what it is today?
I don’t really like to plan in the traditional sense, although as a business owner I need to. I tried to make business plans in the past and they didn’t turn out as I hoped. Everything that happened with the gallery in the last year was the result of luck or as I see it, preparation meeting opportunity, so I’m gonna stick with that. That may include more art fairs, more pop-up shows, more collaborations, publications, or maybe a long pause for some reflection and studio time with my artists. Whatever the case may be, Dominique Gallery is my baby and will always be nurtured.