Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique  discovering  thesis and processes behind the work.








Conversation between Richard W. James and Olivia Ramos.


Richard W. James


RAMOS: Hi Richard, thank you of joining me


JAMES: alright , I'm ready!


What now?


haha awesome


well now we chat about your work


the first image I saw of yours was FOLLEREE AND FOLLEROO


lets start there



Richard W. James



Great. you have any particular questions about that one?


sure. it is so specific, the quilt outfit the string, the joint twins, the crown - where did this all come from?


A couple of sources came together on that one really.  I had been reading a lot about the Roman empire and was knocking around doing something referencing Romulus and Remulus and Remus. The origin story of Rome is quite gruesome if you look into it. One brother killing the other, etc. The other, and probably more important influence is a book called "Riddley Walker."


that book has had a huge impact on my art in a lot of ways


It deals with a post apocalyptic future where people are just relearning how to reform a working society. They rediscover art, machines, etc and misconstrue their meaning and uses. Because the book is written in a style similar to clockwork orange, the misspelling of words and vague descriptions leave a ton of visual room to fill in your head as one reads it.


and how do you relate that to the Romans? this idea of a new world or the strange overwhelming power of state


Folleree and Folleroo are the names of two dogs in the book that come to represent fracturing duality


In a way I came to see the two fictional sets of characters as book ends to a long story. The birth and death of western society.


I picked that particular quilt and cut it down the middle to offset the grid in a reference to atom splitting as well


the birth and death (or rebirth) is a lot - it holds everything


how do you put all that in a sculpture?


I get the quilt and the fractal reference


and the twins as an extension of it


their faces are dirty but they wear a crown, which is no stranger to the book


I would say it is closer to the end than it is to the beginning


Yeah a crown/shared though process. I've always had a visual fascination with head gear as a way to illustrate  thought complexities.


Haha, maybe... but i think every generation thinks that


wait - I was referring to the sculpture


not the present moment


sorry !!


haha no need


I think you are right - every generation does want it to end, I think because they can't stand the thought of not being there for what would happen next


what exactly is closer to the end?


it seems like an expression of royalty


but a post-apocalyptic royalty


the Romans had a totally different style, baths, intellect.... well taken care of


tell me about DOUBTING THOMAS


To get back to an earlier statement of yours....I don't try to put anything into a sculpture really. I have ideas that i mull over often while i work, sometimes they are about larger ideas and sometime they revolve around a piece of junk i recently acquired from an antique store. I usually approach the studio and pursue an idea for a piece, but rarely does the finished work end anywhere close to the initial seed. Hopefully the work that leaves the studio contains something of worth. I consider it a failure if i'm not discovering something/ some connection in the process.


Yeah, those aren't connected that closely. I made five Doubting Thomas' for my thesis exhibition to line the walls.


Richard W. James



I understand - and I was not assuming Doubting Thomas was related.


I wanted to make sure we spoke about them. There is something very lovely about the halo or saintly gesture behind their head


I wanted this figures to either probe themselves or the viewer. I liked the idea of having these guys be part saint and part astronaut.


and part boxer


what do you mean by probe themselves?


The symbol of their divinity is also the tool that keeps them separated from the people. Piousness turning one into a tourist on earth.


i have a plethora of issues with organized religion, if you couldn't tell.


religion or any power structure?


I am having a lot of fun looking at the work - checking out THE DREAMERS


tell me about your issues - where does it come from?



Richard W. James




Power structures are a natural thing and as neutral in and of itself as a tree, if you subscribe to a Darwin based outlook of evolution that is.    I think I have more of an issue with how the religions operate from a position of absoluteness, when in fact they are all constructed from guesswork. I grew up a southern baptist and really bought into the whole thing until I read the bible cover to cover at the age 15. The amount of cognitive dissonance required to overlook the discrepancies was too much. Like who did Adam and Eves children procreate with? Questions I had as a 15 old that sent me off the path.


that's pretty awesome, I've always been very curious - I was born in a communist country where religion was against the law


so I was never exposed to any of it


That's weird to me.


and that is a good questions, maybe they procreated with each other and that's why we are all a little weird


I deeply believe that the template set by believing in a god/afterlife affects ones interface with other power structures.


yes that is true


if one's belief is true, then there is no higher power structure


and this is apparent all over the world


I actually meant, there is no higher structure of power


it not a huge jump to make that if you have developed the neural pathways that come from religious faith in a higher power, those same system of brain chemistry would, every so slightly, encourage blind faith in very fallible political figures.


I don't know about that


I mean, yes, it is a huge jump


if I believe in a higher power - it takes me further and further away from believing in human will power


in self-will


therefore all these political structure crumble


well maybe i can put it another way


I certainly think we (humanity) would take a little better care of the place (earth) if it was viewed as a temporary place to live until heaven.


sorry "not viewed"


yeah the diminished importance of self will is a big thing for me as well.


I'm not sure, it isn't so different, in a smaller scale, than a hotel from a home and people treat their homes like shit


I would say that if people thought this thing never ended, and they come back time after time, and every little step will influence the quality of the next life


then they would behave and treat earth with respect


but this idea that there is only one life - why should they care?


which is not different from what you are saying...


Sorry, we can get back to the artwork..... I could go off about this stuff for hours if not kept in check! Usually i can preregister eye rolling to gauge!


haha no way - this is a lovely subject  - but you are correct, lets get back to the work


so tell me about THE DREAMERS


Haha, some deep cuts!


what do you mean by that?


I would probably refer to those as the first iterations of what i make now.


wait wait - what did you mean by deep cuts?


That work (those 4-5 pieces) was the first step to what I make today.


ahhh gotcha ok just making sure


they are beautiful


I was potter for many years and then went back to grad school for my MFA in ceramics. I was still very medium based until my last year in school at KU.


there is something so peaceful about them


there is also a lack of control in the implementation - unlike now


Those pieces are where I started to incorporate material that had specific meaning to my past, and by proxy, my present.


yes but also theres a freedom in the execution, an sense of freedom or experimentation... do you see that?


They were pretty fresh and loose to me. I was exciting to work with new material. That first round felt like i had finally made my work and not an experiment.


don't you miss that?


there's something really special about the first work coming out of a series of experiments


and something really fresh about not knowing that's what it is until you finish


do you think that's how you operate today?


Yeah, i do. Like i said before, I honestly don't know how things are going to end up. One of the great things about working in a doll format was that i could have flexibility about how the figure went together for the first time. I'm still making changes up until the last minute. I have finished a work and then dismantled the piece in order to use the feet on a different body. I think that uncertainty still excited me.  Especially coming from a ceramic background where once the work is in the kiln, there are no more changes to me made.


but you are right, it's still precious that first time.


I would hope that if I ever stop feeling excited that way i would move on to something else.