The Artist's Gaze: Wesley Wofford
Wesley Wofford's Current Series
What compels you to the specific women you choose to sculpt?
My work tends to start with an idea about a specific theme of contemporary life and then I find a model that will best express the concept. I think the female form is beautiful in all of its varieties, and I am not specifically limited to any particular type.
When do you know you have made a significant connection to your subject and what does that feel or look like from your perspective?
Unlike most figurative artists I know, I actually prefer to not work from a live model. I find that too much model interaction pollutes the original concept, sometimes to the point of actually destroying the work. It has happened on several occasions that I tried to “involve” the model more, and ended up abandoning the sculpture because it evolved too far past the original intent. I think the emotional resonance that I am striving for can only be found by intense, isolated focus, something I cannot achieve with another person in the room.
There is a very specific “feeling” that eventually comes to let me know a sculpture is finished. I don’t sign the sculpture until this feeling arrives, and I drive my wife, who is also my business manager, crazy waiting for this intangible moment. When it does happen, I am elated, but also relieved. I think my biggest fear is that the whispering muse/well of creativity, whatever you want to call it, will one day stop cooperating or allowing me to access it.
Tell us about a strong reaction you have received to your work and the impact you sense it has made on the subject, viewer or the greater cultural landscape.
My solo exhibition last summer was an immersive presentation that was meant to produce an emotional response. I was pleased that most people who viewed the show said they could “feel” it. One guy in particular was talking about how he loved the way I used the figure to elicit empathy. He spoke of the disconnect of “modern” art, and how a lot of the art being generated today he considers “emotionally safe”. I wholeheartedly agree with him, and it is my intent to confront this trend with sculpture that has emotional gravity.
Why this visual dialogue? What do you hope to accomplish through your work?
I want to reflect what it is to be a human in the 21st century. There are many timeless themes that have been explored for thousands of years that are still applicable today. And there are also many new dilemmas and experiences that are unique to us living in 2014. I want to explore these themes in ways that perhaps will bring a new perspective to how someone views a specific issue, and do so by reaching out to the viewer on the inside, to their core, instead of just the usual diatribe of polarizing conversations.
How does your subject make a change in your artist's gaze?
As I spoke before of the negative impact a model can have on a composition, I am talking specifically about my own compositional explorations. I also do a lot of portrait work, and for those commissions the subject actually generates the work. Whereas with my compositions, I am striving to reveal a specific idea, with portraits I really feel that I am just a filter, attempting the channel their essence into the clay. There really is no way to describe the process, other than I am just trying to slip between the cracks to expose their true self.
Tell us about your current series or work and how it may be different from the work submitted for the show.
“Engagement” is part of a larger exploration of my “companion pieces” concept. I am exploring how our lives intertwine, and how these connections affect how we view experiences. The individual sculptures stand alone, and create another composition with a different title and perhaps a completely different intent when combined with another sculpture. It is a metaphor for how we as individuals unite to become something greater than ourselves. “21st Century Graces” explores this theme and specifically addresses relationships between women. I am also currently exploring this idea with a life-size portrait of twin five-year-old boys, as well as several new compositions that will be completed later this year.