James Webb ( He/Him/His )

Artist Statement

Sculpture to Pottery

My brand of art-making seeds first from my innate creative strategy, Lexical-gustatory synesthesia. This type of synesthesia means that two of the nerves that connect to certain sections in the brain that signal taste and sound brush against each other, causing an over lapping in senses of taste and hearing. This makes me produce cerebral relationships between the spoken word and food that are both potent and automatic. I use synesthesia as an explorative and essential tool for my art making process. I also use structuralist ideas, such as Saussure’s development of Semiology, to contextualize the connection between lexical-based synesthesia and how it relates to phonetics in my work.

Using Synesthesia as an initial jumping off point for my work happens to take the form of sculpture. I mold clay to resemble fabric qualities in Roman sculptures as layers of information to talk about materiality. For instance, no one would ever question that Roman art is a prime example of high-classical art, but in many cases, Roman sculptures are merely copies of Greek sculptures.

I, moreover, conjure pieces that have adhered to them titles concerning significant, overriding themes and issues in art. For example, Beauty. The word beauty deposits a potent, distinctive scenario in my head of thick, viscous coconut milk pouring into more swirling coconut milk that has a faint hint of lavender hiding within it. The word art itself waters my salivary glands for hot, greasy, ground beef and melty, pasteurized cheese. I then utilize this vivid, innate interpretation of the word beauty or art to inform my work, which I refer to as beauty studies and art studies.

I research titles through a sore question of authenticity. I am concerned with what may be the significance of how certain materials can seem, or have seemed retrospectively, to imbue authentication into artwork. In a post-modern world that has evolved into such subjective truism, I must continue to investigate what the ethos of authenticity means to me by using synesthesia as a specific methodical process to produce work.

Shifting gears into pottery forms, I recently have been making a body of work about my grandmother.

I talk about stories of reupholstering old couches with my deeply American-spirited immigrant grandmother. The old, musky couches were always from a much different time. My grandmother grew up in hard times during World War II in East Germany, so she always had a lot to talk about. When I was old enough to help her renovate the large, dusty treasures, we would often break from upholstering them and eat bacon sandwiches together that were lathered in mayonnaise on both pieces of white bread. She was a provider. For me, there is an innate, natural connection Between eating bacon and the beauty of old, freshly upholstered couches by synthesizing nostalgic memories.

I am fascinated by how I emotively respond to the visual tension of fresh fabric stretched like skin over an aged, bare bones wooden frame. My work reaches to get-at-the-heart of the very fabric of the stories about grandmother and the ones she told of the old world.

But those sturdy, bare bones of the stories never change even as stories are retold throughout grandfather time. We all reupholster old stories by retelling our own versions of them. My grandmother was a conversationalist and a storyteller.


James Lee Webb grew up in the front porch of the south in a small, somewhat quaint little town called North Middletown, Kentucky. He received his BFA in ceramics from Eastern Kentucky University before leaving his Old Kentucky Home to obtain an MFA in ceramics at Southern Illinois University in 2017. James has completed four long-term artist residency programs along the east coast after graduate school, including Mudflat Pottery school in Boston, MA, Clay Art Center in Portchester, NY and Pocosin School of Fine Craft in Columbia, NC. He has recently begun his fifth clay residency program at Queen City Clay in Cincinnati, Ohio. James has taught wheel throwing at the University of Cincinnati and Currently teaches ceramics handbulding techniques at the University of Dayton, OH. He was one of few artists selected internationally by Ceramics Monthly Magazine as Emerging Artist in ceramics of 2019. His favorite color is RealTree Camouflage, and his favorite food is salt.