Artifact: Richard W. James Solo Exhibition – Red Lodge Clay Center

Artifact: Richard W. James Solo ExhibitionOct 01, 2021 - Oct 30, 2021

Curatorial Statement

Gallery Reception: TBD (if possible)

Exhibition Posted Online: Monday, October 4, 2021 by 10 am MT

Richard W. James’ solo exhibition Artifact will feature his figurative sculptures as well as a series of jars with “traditional” figure studies on the lids. These jars are miniature mausoleums, artifacts of something that was.

Richard is currently an assistant professor of sculpture and ceramics at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. Prior to this, he held artist in resident positions at The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT (2017-2019), Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (2016-2017) in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Zhenrutang (summer 2015) in Jingdezhen, China.  Richard received his BFA from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2001 and his MFA in ceramics from the University of Kansas in 2016, where a portion of his thesis work received the 2016 Sculpture Magazine Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. He was the recipient of the James Renwick Alliance Chrysalis Award (2019) for emerging artist in contemporary craft as well as the Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artist Award (2018). He has also written for Ceramics: Art and Perception, Ceramics: Technical and Ceramics Monthly. His work is featured in numerous private collections and has exhibited across the country, as well as China and Italy.

I have been working in the field of visual art since 1996 when I began my undergraduate fine arts education at the University of Tennessee at Martin. I was initially a painting student; having spent my youth focused in 2-D discipline, but became enamored with clay immediately upon contact. 

In the beginning, my emphasis was on craft, being more interested in what the clay had to say than what I had to say with the material. My focus has changed considerably over time and recently, I have been using clay to explore questions and issues that lay beyond the materiality and craft of the studio.

I utilize the traditional doll format of ceramic head, hands, and feet with a cloth body to create large-scale ceramic sculptures that employ found objects within the narrative. The mending of clothes and the construction of dwellings are two crafts handed down to me through my parents’ and grandparents’ way of life. Growing up in a very poor, rural environment, these crafts were required skills for the survival of my family and are integral to my identity. These hard and soft materials/methods have come to represent the traditionally feminine and masculine facets of my upbringing. The clay in my sculptures (a combination of both) has come to symbolize myself within this trifecta.

I use found objects associated with my rural culture to represent the various bits of influence and information that have shaped my outlook. The characters in my work often fail to understand the intended purpose of the objects with which they interact. I find this misuse analogous to how past information can be misinterpreted based on present need, a type of cognitive dissonance from which we all suffer. 

I feel the need to question how and why I think the way that I do. I cannot begin to understand or connect with the world around me until I understand the lenses through which I look. Incorporating materials and processes that I associate with the informative years of my life is the most effective way for me to question the cultural lenses given to me in those same years.
-Richard W. James