My primary artistic interest is to bring historically grounded conceptual rigor to figural art in the western classical mode, integrating traditional and contemporary materials and practices, concepts and aesthetic principles in a global context.
Conceptually, my focus is on the development of global capitalism and the countless cultural conflicts and exchanges that have resulted from our ever-increasing access to each other. My work investigates the long lineage of our current trend towards globalization, particularly the complex development of global culture through technologically mediated adoptions (advertising, entertainment, the internet, etc.) and multinational corporate standardization of behaviors and values (McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Sony, etc.).
My work tends to rely heavily on literary, historical, and pop-cultural allusions. As well as a powerful tool of signification, allusion serves to position my work within a history that is anything but aloof from those cultural, economic, and political forces that are my primary interest. As my work tends towards the conceptually complex, I increasingly rely on humor to engage my audience.
Although my preferred subject is the figure and my principal material ceramic, my work is above all conceptually driven. This has lead to a variety of projects incorporating materials as diverse as plastic, Styrofoam, fiberglass, steam, oil paint, books, fire, and sound. It is important to me that my choice of material is conceptually purposeful, engaging the particular history of that material’s use. In the case of ceramic, no history is longer (though some are as long), and to use ceramic is to invoke a vast and diverse body of functional, sculptural, decorative, ritual, technological, and industrial practices, each with its own associated cultures and aesthetic principles.
In all of my work, I attempt to rigorously orchestrate coherent complexes of material, formal, and conceptual signification that are more or less legible to contemporary educated viewers. The hope is that, through the fluent integration of these elements, something more emerges, something moving, something viscerally and intellectually lovely.
— Mark Nathan Stafford