Candy-colored sculptural figuration with just enough realism to make you uncomfortable

When I was in grade school I liked to collect rocks that had interesting colors or striations in them. I would coat the rocks in clear nail polish then glue dead bugs on top of them. In hindsight, those probably were my first sculptures. 

My inspiration comes from encountering good work, talking with likeminded artists, and just working itself. Chuck Close has said, “Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work.” I like that quote because I’ve found it to be true that I get most of my ideas for new pieces while I’m working. So even if I don’t feel inspired to work, I just go to the studio and make myself do stuff and usually new ideas start to percolate. 


The busts in this series are cast solid with multiple colors in their interiors. I carve into the faces of the figures after they are cast, revealing strata of color that present unpredictable shapes and patterns. Similar to the process of excavation, I remove material with the aim of discovering new information. But the final pieces, rather than revealing something about the figure as a portrait would, present only a flat, opaque planes. Those planes allude to cross-sections seen in anatomy books, while also suggesting something about the complexity of character and psychology that make others so mysterious.

Unmet #12 is my favorite because I like the way the color on the flat plane creates a sort of pictorial space. The pinks and purples are like a window, framing a “deeper” landscape-like space that is yellow and green. 

What compels me the most about sculpture is the kind of presence that a three-dimensional figure has—the way it sits in space with us and can affect the way we perceive our own body. I think about the experience of confronting a representation of a body and how that makes us feel. Part of having a body is negotiating our relationship to other bodies—comparing, contrasting, assessing attraction or repulsion, trying to understand body language.

Figurative sculpture presents a body upon which we can stare unabashedly since we don’t have to continually calibrate my reactions to a real-time relationship of give and take, which can make encounters with others fraught with anxiety. But with sculpted figures, a moment has been frozen and been presented for intellectual contemplation. I'm not as self-conscious when looking at a sculpture because I know the object is not looking back, and because the gesture/expression is static I have more than a split second to evaluate my read of it. When with a real person, a possible thought may be "I'm attracted to him, I wonder if he's attracted to me" but with sculpture, the thought becomes less of an emotional response and more of an objective question, such as "His body is beautiful. Why do I think that?"


The broadest sense I think art is an expression of experience filtered through the human mind and body. When you say “good” artist, I’m thinking of that as separate from “successful” artist, since the two don’t always go hand in hand. I think being a good artist has a lot to with vision—how someone sees things and manifests ideas. Good artists see things in ways that go beyond the expected or beyond cliché, and their work facilitates other people seeing things in a new way. That quality doesn’t necessarily have to do with time or age.

general philosophy:

if you work hard and are kind to those around you, things generally work out. Not to say that you’ll get exactly what you want, but there will be positive outcomes.

I’m excited to be a part of the Atlanta Biennial that is coming up soon. It will take place at Atlanta Contemporary from August 27th through December 18th, 2016 and will feature the work of 33 artists from eight Southern states. I’ll be showing two sculptures that have never been exhibited before—I’m still working on one of them actually.

Christina West