Richard W. James

Richard grew up in rural Tennessee. He earned his MFA in ceramics from the University of Kansas in 2016 and was a 2016-17 long-term artist-in-residence at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He has been a summer artist-in-residence at Zhenrutang in Jingdezhen, China, a special student in ceramics at Indiana University, and received his BFA from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2001.  Richard is the recipient of Sculpture Magazines 2016 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award and joins the Bray as the 2017 Speyer Fellow. 

I have always felt 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.