In his Richmond studio, artist Christopher David White (previously) practices an alchemy of materials as he transforms slabs of clay into deceptive sculptures and functional objects that appear carved from hunks of decaying wood. His trompe l’oeil ceramics are fragile depictions of the hardy material, complete with its gnarled knots and splintered edges in various states of decomposition.
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To achieve such a hyperrealistic finish, each piece undergoes multiple rounds of detailing—head to Instagram for a glimpse behind-the-scenes—which White starts by shaping the initial form with knots and branches and imprinting large grooves for the grain. After the work dries slightly, dental instruments, wire brushes, and Xacto knives aid in crafting the more intricate components, and the slightly dehydrated material lends itself to natural cracks and divots that enhance the woody texture. Once fired, the artist paints each sculpture with a largely neutral palette of acrylics.
White continues to explore humans’ relationship to the environment in both his figures and smaller works, although he’s recently shifted to more overt considerations of the topic. “I seek to highlight humanity’s abuse and disregard for nature along with the contradictions in our actions,” he says. “Humans have a tendency to acknowledge the beauty, fragility, and uniqueness of nature while simultaneously viewing it as a resource to be endlessly exploited, controlled, and discarded.”