Clifford Ward

Artistic Statement

The ability to create the illusion of defying gravity through body movement fascinates me. The poses of dancers/choreographers like Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham, Koresh and Rennie Harris have inspired me to create sculptures and paintings that “dance”. The concentration on the lines, lightness, and grace of artistic and athletic movement have also inspired this series of sculptures and paintings which continue to evolve. Dance is a vital constituent to many cultures, especially to the African Diaspora. The beat of the drum remains in my soul and allows me to celebrate and rejoice dancing through sculptures, masks and paintings. My art provides a vehicle for me to tell my own stories.

My sculptures show a concentration on dancers that give a credible illusion of defying gravity by the excitement of flight and asymmetry. My desire to create dancers that are in flight seems to be the natural progression for my art. Just as photographers learned to freeze dancers and athletes in a split second (stop-action), I aim to freeze a sculpture/dancer in mid-flight. This allows me to further explore the movement of bodies (sculpture) through space and time. This exploration has led me to design stands/bases that will allow for the counter-balance of these positions. The sculpture (like the dancer) is fluidity and continuity. It connects and unfolds. My hope is that they envelop us and enter through the eye, ear and the hand. There is also a strong concentration on the negative spaces in my work.

My sculptures either remain in their mixed media form (steel, newspaper and other paper products, plaster bandages, cowrie shells, acrylic paint or amber shellac with brown wax) or they are cast in bronze, iron or aluminum. Other work consists of figures modeled in clay and cast in bronze, iron and aluminum. These, like most of my work, explore my love of geometry, cubism, mythology, textures and Egyptian/Nubian art and symbols. Much of my work incorporates an improvisational style of painting, which is displayed on the mixed media sculptures using acrylic paint. It is manifested on my metal work by using a pneumatic air scribe to etch the design directly onto the metal.

My new work involves two visual elements of my dancers that have been “extracted” and developed individually. One might call these “subsets of the whole”. In this new work I have extracted the painting element and now paint on canvas with most of the themes being dancers. Using acrylic paint on canvas and using an improvisational painting style, allows me to enhance my body of work. My paintings take full advantage of the two-dimensionality of canvas painting by using silhouettes to serve as vessels for my abstract, extemporaneous painting and designs. I call them, “contained abstractions”. Unlike most painters, I am not attempting to give the illusion of three dimensions but rather to exploit two-dimensionality of canvas painting. My first group of paintings were designed to resemble the color scheme of African mud cloth; using a canvas painted with Mars black acrylic paint and contrasted with the abstract designs created with unbleached titanium. Bright, pastel colors are now incorporated. They are then framed using bare Ashe wood frames.

The other “extraction” taken from my dancers is the mask-like faces that they contain. These faces were based on the African mask and I have developed a series of masks to be presented as wall hangings or presented on individual stands as pedestal sculptures. Presently, I use casts of my own face as the basis for the masks. I then develop the “shell/foundation” with more modeling and embellishments (transforming them immensely). These masks are painted similarly to my dance sculptures and paintings. So although these elements have been extracted, they continue to possess many of the same characteristics, which tie the body of work together.

Embracing the mythologies, cultures and ethos of the African Diaspora, Australian Aborigines, Native Americans and Maori People of New Zealand through dance, religion and spirituality, my work has evolved into a “potpourri” of many of these indigenous peoples’ cultures. It is truly from my soul and I feel more and more like a conduit for my ancestors’ messages.

It is important that I bring my work to “ordinary, everyday” people, for it is from these people (past and present) that my work is inspired.


Sample Work:

Piece 1

Piece 2

Piece 3

Piece 4

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