Flash of the Spirit: An Interview with Woody DeOthello
In this captivating interview with ceramic artist Woody DeOthello, we delve into the realm of his awe-inspiring artistic practice. From his inclusion in the prestigious Whitney Biennial to his profound reflections on humor, belonging, and the influence of the Yoruba religion, DeOthello shares insights into his creative journey.
The Energizing Power of Deadlines
In a whirlwind of productivity, DeOthello embraces the pressure of deadlines, channeling it into his artistic process. Drawing inspiration from Quincy Jones and the high-speed creation of Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller,” DeOthello believes that magic can happen when we react instinctively rather than overthinking. The intense bursts of creativity that occur under time constraints often lead to profound and unexpected results.
The Healing Power of Humor
DeOthello emphasizes the importance of humor as a tool for healing and processing the challenges of the world. By infusing his artwork with laughter, he brings lightness to subjects that may have been traumatic or difficult to navigate. Humor is not only a defense mechanism for DeOthello but an integral part of his personality, which naturally finds expression in his artwork.
Discovering California’s Creative Soul
Growing up in Miami, DeOthello always felt a deep connection to California. Drawn to its natural beauty and the rich history of ceramics in the Bay Area, he knew that this was where he belonged. His decision to pursue an MFA in California allowed him to immerse himself in a vibrant artistic community and tap into the roots of ceramics in the region.
The Transmutation of Bronze
DeOthello’s exploration of different materials led him to discover the transformative power of bronze. Initially unfamiliar with working in bronze, he was amazed by how closely it resembled ceramics in both energy and vibe. The ability to create larger-than-life sculptures in bronze opened up new avenues for his artistic practice.
The Joy of Happy Accidents
Throughout his artistic journey, DeOthello has come to appreciate the serendipitous nature of “happy accidents.” These unforeseen moments of opportunity, where luck meets preparation, have often shaped the trajectory of his work. Embracing these fortuitous occurrences and trusting his intuition has allowed DeOthello to create distinctive and meaningful pieces.
Accessibility and Personal Connection
Rooted in his own background and experiences, DeOthello aims to create artwork that is accessible and relatable to a wide audience. By incorporating objects from everyday life and personalizing them, he invites viewers to engage with his art on a deeply personal level. DeOthello cherishes the ability to share his work with his family, ensuring that art remains within reach for all.
Metaphorical Narratives and Symbolism
DeOthello’s sculptures and paintings often carry metaphorical narratives, inviting viewers to explore the emotional and psychological depths of inanimate objects. Through personification and the exploration of everyday spaces, he challenges conventional perspectives and highlights the beauty in the ordinary. Colors also play a significant role in conveying emotion and capturing the viewer’s attention, with DeOthello’s affinity for orange symbolizing vitality and joy.
Contextualizing the Artistic Experience
Rejecting the traditional white gallery space, DeOthello strives to create immersive environments that provide meaningful context for his artworks. By incorporating stools, chairs, and other elements, he encourages viewers to engage with his pieces in a more profound and holistic manner. DeOthello’s vision extends beyond the artwork itself, transforming gallery spaces into vibrant realms of artistic expression.
The Spiritual Connection of Yoruba
Deeply intrigued by the Yoruba religion, DeOthello explores its concepts of giving life to objects and finding spirituality in nature. As he delves into the Yoruba deities and their symbolism, he uncovers parallels between their practices and his own art-making process. This newfound knowledge expands his creative consciousness, offering fresh perspectives and inspiring new possibilities in his work.
Constant Exploration and Growth
DeOthello’s artistic journey is characterized by constant exploration and growth. Unafraid to step into uncharted territories, he recently ventured into sculpting animals, a realm he had not previously explored. By embracing new subjects, such as birds, and delving deeper into Yoruba motifs, he continues to broaden the scope of his artistic practice, molding it into something ever-evolving and rich with meaning.
Closing Thoughts and Whitney Biennial
As our conversation draws to a close, DeOthello expresses his excitement about being part of the upcoming Whitney Biennial. The culmination of his artistic journey thus far, this prestigious event will showcase his work alongside other exceptional artists. With his boundless creativity and unwavering dedication, DeOthello has undoubtedly secured his spot among the artistic elite.
In the world of ceramics, Woody DeOthello stands out as a visionary artist whose work captivates and engages. Through his vibrant and metaphorical creations, he invites viewers to delve into introspection and explore the profound beauty found within the everyday. With his inclusion in the Whitney Biennial and his unwavering commitment to his craft, DeOthello’s artistic journey continues to flourish, leaving an indelible mark on the art world.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How did Woody DeOthello’s upbringing influence his artistic style?
Growing up in Miami with working-class Haitian parents, DeOthello’s art has always been deeply rooted in accessibility and relatability. He strives to create pieces that resonate with a wide audience and allow his family to engage with and interpret his work.
2. What role does humor play in DeOthello’s artwork?
Humor serves as a vital tool for DeOthello to navigate the challenges of the world. By infusing his art with laughter, he brings lightness to difficult subjects, facilitating healing and processing for both himself and viewers.
3. How does the Yoruba religion influence DeOthello’s artistic process?
Inspired by the spirituality and practices of the Yoruba religion, DeOthello explores the personification of objects and finds ways to imbue his art with life. This exploration opens up new avenues for creativity and allows for nuanced conversations around the psychology and emotion of his pieces.
4. How does DeOthello create immersive environments for his artwork?
DeOthello moves away from the conventional white gallery space, instead crafting immersive environments that provide meaningful context for his sculptures and paintings. By incorporating stools, chairs, and other elements, he encourages viewers to engage with his art on a deeper level, fostering a more profound and holistic experience.
5. What can we expect from Woody DeOthello’s participation in the Whitney Biennial?
DeOthello’s inclusion in the upcoming Whitney Biennial is a significant milestone in his artistic journey. This prestigious event will showcase his vibrant and thought-provoking artwork alongside other talented artists, solidifying his place among the artistic elite.