Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident (ASPN) 2021
Wesley Barnes is a student and potter currently attending Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Wesley was born into a military family, his father working as an Air Force Chaplain, and so he grew up in various cities and towns throughout the continental United States as well as Germany and Japan. After graduating high school in O’fallon Illinois, he moved to South Carolina to live and work, until a love of books and art would lead him back to Illinois to at enroll at SIUe where he would eventually find his way into the ceramics department.
In my work I am interested in the quiet dialogue that takes place between us and our pots whether that be through physical touch — on the wheel, or at our lips — or through their presence in our homes and lives.
When I began making pots, I thought I was escaping the conceptual mire I had found myself in other fields. As a writer I felt it was important that my work say something but everything I said felt untrue as soon as it fell out of my mouth. At the same time, I felt uncomfortable contributing yet another voice into the cacophony of voices that seemed to be growing louder and louder with each passing year.
This is part of what attracted me to pottery in the first place: a simple cup had the potential to be a beautiful work of art but If nothing else, it would at least be useful. But, of course, pottery is rarely “nothing else.” Historically vessels came to have great cultural and symbolic significance in part because of their ubiquitous presence in people’s lives. A water basin becomes a baptismal font. A pitcher becomes a provider. Through pottery, I discovered that complex ideas could be communicated without ever saying a word.
I am a restless maker, bouncing around in subject matter, materials and firing style, allowing myself to work intuitively and freely explore any idea that pops into my head. In addition to making functional pots, I am currently interested in historical forms both ceremonial and domestic and what happens when these vessels are put into dialogue with animal figures and imagery.
While seemingly haphazard, working primarily by my own intuition is the most honest way I have found to go about making art. Similar to how a potter’s attitudes about clay and how they think pots should be used will be evident in the pots they make, in some small way my beliefs and feelings about the world will be present in my work whether I intend them or not; my job is only to carve the clay away and reveal them.