TOQUERVILLE, Utah — Russell Wrankle grew up in the “boonies” outside of Palm Springs, California. He spent his childhood hunting in the desert outside his home. Coming from a blue collar background, he always assumed that he would work in manual labor, but that changed when he took his first ceramics class in college. Today he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Southern Utah University, where he teaches 3D and 2D design, multi media and ceramic sculpture. We’re always interested in the creative thoughts of the artists we feature, so we thought we’d give this talent some space to describe his creative approach in his own words.
Two words have recently entered my vocabulary; haptic, which is of or relating to the sense of touch and heuristic, learning through trial and error, experimentation, self teaching and evaluating feedback to improve one’s performance. The relationship between these two words in the context of art making is that both imply action. The creative mind becomes active when the body interacts with material. The way to improve performance is by physically implementing ideas. By experimenting with an idea and responding to it, the idea then enters a feedback loop, which in turn improves the original idea. My approach to art making is defined by these two words: hands on and always improving.
For a long time, I’ve been sculpting gravity and within this gravitational framework I fold fetish, animals, membrane and sex into the subject matter. I begin with a formal concern; that is, can I reproduce an existing object out of clay? The recent addition of the red stiletto into my repertoire, for example, is a response to a dancer at a performance I recently attended. She wore them so beautifully and gracefully that I tried to capture that occasion in clay.
Lately, I’m less compelled to attach language to my work. I try to work beyond intellect, within a stream of consciousness. I rely more on the visceral and intuitive. The test to determine if an idea is compelling and worth pursuing is whether I stay engaged throughout the making process. The stiletto, for example, was intended to be a one-off, but when I began making it, the heuristic feedback loop began and more ideas came to mind. Therefore, the concept diverged from the original impetus.
As I begin to attach meaning to an object and idea, a narrative takes shape. The narrative usually corresponds with memories or experiences from my formative years, but not always. Sometimes I stay with an idea simply because I appreciate the formal qualities of the object and nothing more. I suspect, however, that a more complex narrative will eventually reveal itself if I stay with an idea long enough.
While making any particular piece, I try to keep my inner critic at bay and wait until it is finished so that I can judge my work more objectively and from a less emotional point of view. I hope others value my art, but mostly I make work to address my own particular artistic point of view. This is my way of making sense of the world.
Russell Wrankle is a sculptor and art professor based out of Toquerville, Utah.
This post is from a reader’s submission. The text and images have been edited. If you want to be featured in cfile.daily, please go to our submissions page for details.
Do you love or loathe these works of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.