My work explores the discrepancy between how we, as humans, see ourselves versus how we want others to see us. I am curious about how the aggregate nature of personality and memory construction affects the sense of self, and by extension, interaction with the world around us. Because “an unexamined life is not worth living,” I feel the need to question the basic detritus that has coalesced into what I refer to as “myself.” I do that in my studio practice by incorporating materials and processes that I associate with the informative years of my youth, growing up within a poor, rural upbringing.
The mending of clothes and the construction of dwellings are two crafts handed down to me through my parents and grandparents’ way of life. I have chosen to integrate these hard and soft materials and construction methods into my ceramic sculptures. They have come to represent the feminine and masculine facets of my upbringing. The clay (a combination of both) has come to symbolize myself within this trifecta. In addition, I use found objects that I associate 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.
The goals of my studio practice are an extension of my personal goals. I believe that using these components and methods are the most effective way for me to explore both how and why I think and act the way I do. These works that come from the studio are simply a crystalized attempt toward that understanding.
— Richard W. James
Richard W. James grew up in rural Tennessee and the received his BFA from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2001. He received his MFA in ceramics from the University of Kansas in 2016, where his thesis work received the 2016 Sculpture Magazine Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. He has been a summer artist-in-residence at Zhenrutang in Jingdezhen, China, a long-term resident at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and is currently a long-term resident at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana.