Jen Clay

Born 1985 Mountain View, North Carolina

I am motivated by a contradiction that exists within my family and the small town I was raised, where otherness and uncertainty in local lore are embraced, yet, otherness in people– namely expressions of mental illness and trauma– is met with resistance and denial.

Selected Works

These are a selected group of works and installation photographs. For a complete list of available works please contact us.

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Jen Clay

“I create elaborately sewn textiles of ambiguous non-human figures which speak to the audience through audio or sewn messages to make fear, anxiety, and uncertainty approachable. I think of my work as mental illness avatars that take the form of friendly doomsday creatures to be a physical manifestation of uncertainty. I want to create a soothing and relaxing atmosphere with the unknown to settle feelings of avoidance and denial in future experiences with uncertainty.

I use plushy textures of quilted textiles and manipulated fabrics to create an intuitive, comforting feeling for my avatars. This work is an attempt to soothe the uncomfortable and make ambiguity welcoming. These forms are influenced by depictions of otherness, from H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional tales of Cthulhu and ghost and alien abduction stories to actual reports of hallucinatory experiences. By mimicking a supernatural-like encounter, I reflect the unknowable and the ambiguity within ourselves.

Accessibility and inclusivity are integral elements of my work. I create multi-sensory experiences and allow touch to resonate with viewers. Through textiles, my work has developed its tactile language of comfort and safety by using enticing textures to rekindle memories of stuffed animals and heirloom quilts.

My work is inspired by growing up in a rural mountain community. I am motivated by a contradiction that exists within my family and the small town I was raised, where otherness and uncertainty in local lore are embraced, yet, otherness in people– namely expressions of mental illness and trauma– is met with resistance and denial.”


Clay was born in 1985 in Mountain View, North Carolina. She received her BFA in Sculpture from University of North Carolina Charlotte and her MFA from the University of Florida in 2014. Directly after her MFA, she moved to South Florida, where, within a year, she had immersed herself in the scene, with screenings and performances at Girls Club Collection, Fort Lauderdale, FL; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL; The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL; NSU Art Museum, Ft Lauderdale FL; and Miami Light Box, Miami, FL.

Commissions for more complex and immersive multimedia performances followed. Among these are “Stewardess, Pink Noise: Flexing the Frequency” at Girls Club Collection in 2016, “Welcome to You&Me” at Young at Art Museum in Davie, FL in 2019. The performances at Young at Arts and South Dade Arts Center, which built upon the commissioned performance for the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, were conceived especially for neurodiverse children. It was while working on the group exhibition for the South Florida Cultural Consortium at Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami in 2019 when she began thinking about making self-contained performative objects. Clay has shown in institutions up and down the east coast of the United States.

Residencies include Oolite Arts, Miami Beach, FL(2020-2022), along with a connected residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (2020), New Smyrna, FL. A short segment on her practice, “Jen Clay: The Texture of Anxiety, ” won a 2020 regional Emmy through South Florida PBS. A Knight Arts New Work Award is funding an ambitious new video game and installation, to debut at Locust Projects in the Fall of 2023. Clay lives and works in South Florida.



2014 MFA, Sculpture, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

2010 BFA, Sculpture, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 



This World Doesn’t Belong to You, Emerson Dorsch Gallery, Miami, FL


Our Canopy, Pompano Beach Cultural Center, Pompano Beach, FL


We All Share, Practice Gallery, Philadelphia, PA




TBT, Project Art Space, NYC 

TBT, Patient Info, Chicago, IL

TBT, Wasmer Art Gallery, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL

TBT, The Frank Gallery, Pembroke Pines, FL 

Eyes of The Skin, Locust Projects, Miami, FL




BluPrnt, Bridge Red Studios, Miami, FL 

SouthXeast: contemporary art triennial , Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL


Lean-to, curated by Leilani Lynch, 924 Gallery, Oolite Arts, Miami Beach, FL

We Grew When You Weren’t Looking, Permanent, Miami-dade Art In Public Places, Brisas Del Este, Miami, FL 

Soft Sanity, interactive performance, South Miami-dade Cultural Arts Center, Miami, FL

Strange Bodies Strange Days, Collective 62, Miami, FL


Into The Fold, Curated by IS Projects, Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs, FL 

Patterns, Light The Night, commissioned by Broward County Cultural Division, NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, FL 


Fruiting Bodies, Florida Biennial, curated by Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon, Hollywood Art and Culture Center, Hollywood, FL 

Mound, Idioms and Taxonomies, Oolite Arts, Miami, FL 

The Chase, performance, funded by Miami Beach Cultural Affairs, Collins Park, Miami, FL


Soft Sanity, performance, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL

Welcome Friends, South Florida Cultural Consortium, Museum of Contemporary Art , Miami, FL

Welcome To You&Me, installation and performances, Young At Art Museum, Davie, FL


Crawl Out, Cubed: Luminous, Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, FL

Steady Lack, The Front, New Orleans, LA


Nearing, OFF Site Performance Series, Girls’ Club Collection, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Steady Lack, Rough Textures, Artists & Fleas, Brooklyn, NYC


Episode, installation and video, SuperFine Fair, Miami, FL 

Stewardess, Pink Noise: Flexing The Frequency, installation and performance, Girls’ Club Collection, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Allon Allou, RE/NIGHT/LIVE/MARE, Acre TV, Chicago, IL

Live Show , Per_Formance, Swine Gallery, Chattanooga, TN


UnderNeath, Outdoor Projection Series, NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, FL

UnderNeath, Outdoor Projection Series, Girls’ Club Collection, Fort Lauderdale, FL

SpaceShow, Miami Performance International Festival, MOCA, Miami, FL

Underwater Opera, Here and Now, Miami Light Box, Miami FL

Underwater Prologue, Miami Design District, Site-Specific Performance Series, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL


Mothers and Fathers, Art Grease public broadcasting, Squeaky Wheel, Buffalo, NY

Live Show, Haunted Mill, Wassaic Projects, Wassaic, NY


Go, Invitational, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL


Monsters, Fresh, Association of Visual Arts, Chattanooga, TN

Visitors, Changing Places, invitational, Levine Museum of The New South, Charlotte, NC



Knight New Work Award, Knight Foundation, Miami, FL 


Studio Resident, Oolite Arts, Miami, FL 


Home + Away Residency, Oolite Arts x Atlantic Center for the Arts , New Smyrna Beach, FL 


South Florida Cultural Consortium fellowship, Broward, FL 


Existent Books, Nocturnal Press and IS Projects, Fort Lauderdale, FL


Creative Investment Program grant, Broward,FL


Digital Residency, North and Found, London, England


The Wassaic Projects, Wassaic, NY


Visiting Artist Grant, New World School of Arts, Miami,FL

Travel Grant, UFL, Gainesville FL


Women’s Achievement Award, Charlotte Charter Women’s Fund, Charlotte NC

Kiwanis Academic Award, Kiwanis Club, Morganton NC




Creating Spaces, episode 1101, Artist Loft, South FL PBS 


“Strange Bodies, Strange Days”, Burnaway, April 2022, by Jason Katz


Stories Cultivated by Oolite Arts , episode 811, Art Loft, Special Episode, South Florida PBS


“Jen Clay’s Annihilation-Inspired Exhibit at Young at Art Isn’t Just for Kids”, Miami New Times, May 2019, by Ciara LaVelle


“Beautiful Unsettling Things, Episode 12”, Kidnapped For Dinner, Jolt Radio Broadcast, Jan. 2018  by Kristen Soller


Create! Magazine, curated by Sarah Potter, December issue

“Artist Jen Clay on Nearing, Sesame Street, and Ghosts in the Woods”, Miami New Times, by 

Maria De Los Angeles

“Volume 20”, Rocking Chair Sessions PodCast, by Maria Theresa Barbist and Elysa D. Batista 

“Conversation between Jennifer Clay and Olivia Ramos”, WorkUntitled Magazine, by Olivia Ramos


Girls’ Club Collection, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Oolite Arts, Miami Beach, FL 


2016-present Interactive Initiative 


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