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Cliffton Peacock
Studio Art

Photo Cliff Peacock

Professor Cliffton Peacock


Cliffton Peacock: Distinguished Artist and Professor
By Elizabeth McGough

Painting is a most beloved tradition and pastime in the United States as well as internationally. For some, it is more than just a hobby, but a true love and passion. Cliffton Peacock, a fine arts professor at the College of Charleston, would most definitely fall into this elite group. He is a distinguished painter not just in the eyes of his students, but among the art community as well.

Cliff, as he is referred to by many of his students, grew up in Chicago where his mother took him to the Art Institute of Chicago and other museums and exhibits. He cites many of these early exposures to

certain artists as mentors for his painting. In particular, he was moved by an Albrecht Durer print titled, "Knight, Death, and the Devil."

"I had never seen an image like that in my life and of course I was completely taken with it," Peacock said. "I also remember this field trip in high school to the museum, and there was Rene Magritte's 'Time Transfixed.' My teacher had to actually take me away from it."

Peacock cites many artists as mentors for his work, but he also cites influences outside of the visual arts. He enjoys American classics such as the film "Bonnie and Clyde" and Herman Melville's works. Peacock would go on to receive his Master of Fine Arts degree from Boston University.

Peacock has exhibited his paintings nationally many times since 1980 and has had one-person exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the Greenville Museum of Art, Greenville, S.C., and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, N.C. His work is in the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Hood Museum of Art, among others.

Peacock has been the recipient of many prestigious awards and grants within the painting community. Most impressively these include: three National Endowment for the Arts grants, three Massachusetts Artist Fellowship awards, an Englehard Foundation grant, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Fellowship, and Awards in the Visual Arts grants sponsored by the Equitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, the Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome, a South Carolina Individual Artist Fellowship, and a 2001 fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation in New York City.

He applied to the most prestigious Guggenheim fellowship for ten years before finally getting it. He then moved to New York to pursue this most esteemed career achievement. There his collection included his self- proclaimed "Figurative" artwork.
Figurative art uses artistic representation by means of animal or human figures. Other famous Figurative painters include Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Francesco Clemente. His medium for his work is linen and cotton. Why linen you may ask?
Peacock explains, "I just like the surface. It's expensive, but it holds up with large areas better. It's the same stuff artists used way back."

Peacock's paintings do not typically come from anything specific. He explains that they usually just evolve, but not from a specific memory. He taps into a compilation of memories or a composite idea.

Peacock approaches teaching undergraduate painting with a variety of methods. He explains his focus that he tries to portray when teaching students the basics of painting.

"I try to encourage students to adopt older traditions and make them personal," he says. "I think many students have a very limited view. Also, they have to want to do it, I can't teach them to want to do it. Painting is alchemy, and when it works it can be incredible. I feel I'm successful as a teacher if the first or second stop they go into a city is a museum, because this language is older than the written language. So I would at least like for them to feel access to this with certainty."

Many of his students have been very affected by their time spent in Professor Peacock's classroom. Often class is not held in a typical classroom or studio, but outdoors or in an environment that promotes creativity.

"Cliff is one of those influential professors that you never forget," said Britt Berlauk, a C of C junior. "I am a Communications major with a minor in Studio Art yet I received so much out of Cliff's class. He encourages his students to embrace the traditions of painting and appreciate them, even if you are not the most talented of painters."

Peacock has been with the College of Charleston School of the Arts since1996. He teaches Beginning Painting I, II, III.