Artist Interview: Wesley T Wright

(Image Courtesy Aimeé Santos) 

We are excited to introduce Bay Area sculptor, Wesley T. Wright with his debut feature on our Project Wall at the gallery next month. We've been working with Wesley on a few group shows beginning last year and have been captivated by his imaginative ceramic works and the characters he creates. In No More Horizons, some of the artwork symbolism is obvious and others obscure, but all chosen to help process and critique the world around us. 

ME: What was your inspiration for No More Horizons and how did you select your subject matter?

WTW: The title "No More Horizons" comes from a quote by Joseph Cambell. It alludes to the way in which boundaries continue to dissolve in our modern world, creating a vast exchange of ideas, cultures, and also natural environments. This dissolution of barriers is a source of conflict and suffering, as well as synergy and cooperation. I generally choose to work with creatures that are facing existential challenges or have certain eccentricities that I want to explore.

ME: Many of your animal subjects take on a personified appearance. Is there any underlying symbolism there?

WTW: Yes, just as in ancient mythology and even modern cartoons I use animals to represent humans. In this context I often use them to embody certain archetypes or personality types. I try to manipulate and magnify the symbolic features of my creatures in order to tell a story.

ME: You have taught ceramic sculpture at Santa Clara University and Delta College. How does teaching affect your artwork personally, if at all?

WTW: Teaching effects my work in a few ways. I’m constantly brainstorming with students on concepts for their work. Fresh minds often think outside of the box and help me to see my own art through different eyes. Teaching also forces me to always consider the fundamentals of the processes that I’m teaching, which reinforces the foundation of my own work.

ME: What is your artistic process? 

WTW: I consider both life and art to be a great research project. While working in the studio, I listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts about history, science, mythology, and other subjects. The goal being to help illuminate the bigger picture of what it is to be living here now. I also look at a lot of images of animals and watch nature documentaries. This helps maintain a steady stream of images and ideas flowing through my mind. When my visual and conceptual thoughts congeal into an idea for a piece, I make rough sketches of it. These sketches are usually more of a blueprint than a piece of art. If I’m incorporating mixed media elements into the work, I need to figure out the logistics early on. Sometimes I work with glass blowers in order to create bio-domes and hot sculpted elements into the work. I use molds in order to repeat forms that I’ve sculpted, and also to incorporate surfaces from objects such as ornate hardware and wood. One super cool feature of the ceramic surface finishing process is that I can layer and adjust color through multiple firings. Once I have a layer of color that I like, I can fire the piece in order to save what I’ve done. Then I can make adjustments without messing up that initial layer. I usually end up firing a piece three or more times before I’m happy with it.

ME: What artists inspire you?

WTW: One of my favorite artists is the Russian American illustrator Borris Artzybasheff (Below). I love the way that he uses anthropomorphism and blends surrealism, humor, and social-political commentary so seamlessly.

In the California ceramics world there is a wonderful tradition of figurative sculpture that inspires me both in terms of process and content. Richard Shaw, with his mastery of slip-cast Trompe l’oiel ceramics showed me the vast possibilities that molds can provide. I also love Robert Arneson’s large-scale autobiographical busts, which helped to lay a foundation for many artists working representationally with clay, and making art with a sense of humor and a conscience.

I’m also lucky enough to have so many amazingly creative and talented peers in the Bay Area ceramics sculpture community that continue to inspire and challenge me. People like Joseph Kowalczyk, Evan Hobart, Mark Jaeger, Crystal Morey, Erika Sanada, and Calvin Ma are part of the new generation of figurative ceramic sculptors.

ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not sculpting / making art?

WTW: I share a live work loft in East Oakland with my wife, Malia Landis who’s also a ceramic artist. It still blows my mind to be able to just roll out of bed and get to work in the studio, and to share that special time with such a wonderful person. We usually go to the Oakland Art Murmur every month to connect with friends and check out the galleries. Sometimes I kick a soccer ball, ride a unicycle, or juggle. I spend time jogging by the bay and hiking in the hills, and if I get the chance I love to go camping and jump into a nice cold river.


No More Horizons debuts of July 11, 2015 at Modern Eden Gallery.

More info about the exhibition can be found HERE.

Kim Larson
Kim Larson