Aaron Caldwell

Artist Statement

I look at Black* and queer identity with a lens of interiority. My work is primarily inspired by Black folks’ history with moisturizing products for the hair and body, and my being conditioned to hold value in my hair, skin color and the necessary tools for care. Being considered physically ashy (white and dry skin) or socially ashy (wack, lame, ignorant) are lingo among Black folk. As a result, products like lotion or coconut oil have become a staple in the Black community, so I create objects that concretely elevate and highlight this relationship unique to Black culture. I also employ zoomorphic forms inspired by African-American history, folktales, Pre-Colombian, west and central African sculpture. The buffalo represents masculinity, the gazelle represents femininity, the sheep represents queerness and the rabbit represents Blackness. My art narrates how I engage with my Blackness and queerness both in private, and how these identities inform how I engage with the world.

*Black is used as a way to be inclusive of the Black experience in case anyone who is not African-American finds relatable moments within my work; however, when making my work I am primarily regarding my experiences as an African-American. The same applies to the use of Queer as I am speaking from the perspective of a gay man.

-- Aaron Caldwell


Aaron Caldwell was born and raised in Fresno, California. He graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a BA in general studio art in 2019, and will have his MS in Art Education from Illinois State University in December 2021. He was awarded the 2019 NCECA Multicultural Fellowship award and 2019-2020 Northern Clay Center Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award. He has shown work at the Lucy Lacoste Gallery, The Clay Studio, Baltimore Clayworks and several other places across the United States. He currently has work in the permanent collection of San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts and SIUC’s Student Center. He is also the lead director for Queeramics which is a platform to connect, showcase and support queer ceramic artists. He primarily works in clay, but also makes use of metalsmithing, papermaking, fiber arts and printmaking techniques/materials.Aaron has always been passionate about education, and gained a passion for the arts in 2017, and believes the schools and communities that serve Black and latinx youth need access and opportunities for art making and engaging experiences. Aaron plans on helping create and sustain art making and engaging programs in these communities, in hopes of encouraging them to pursue art as a field of interest or a personal hobby because Black and latinx communities deserve art (funding and spaces) too.