A bright, airy studio, scattered with wooden clay tools, buckets of glaze, heavy bags of stoneware stand adjacent to an outdoor kiln for raku glazing – the ephemera of African tradition, ritual and culture emanates through Nash’s material practice. A thin layer of clay dust settles on the shelves and tables of his workspace. Dozens of clay models make their temporary homes in this studio space, where Nash gives each piece of art life. Lean, elongated figures, inscribed and painted in tribal patterns, beg the viewer to look closer. Their bodies, sometimes nude, are powerful, harnessing an intuitive truth about the naturalness of the human form. Their faces, with missing eyes, evokes a longing from the viewer to peer into these sculptures’ souls. Braids, twists, and dreadlocks fall from their heads, constructed so intricately that they have the texture and weight of real hair. Delicately crafted stoneware beads, seashell necklaces, and geometric earrings hang heavily around their necks and from their ears in a fashion realistic to many indigenous African tribes.


His ceramic sculpture art screams for celebration in a world that is so often downtrodden, laden with social injustices and pervasive danger. He begins by creating molds where he constructs captivating recreations of the human form. From there, he uses stoneware to model the African sculptures, consistently working in a series of eight to ten works. In an intentional attempt to lure us in, he omits the eyes, hoping to develop a participatory relationship between art and viewer, one in which we recognize the power held within our own bodies. 

In terms of embellishment, he etches and creates textural stylized marks inspired by Nigerian gold weight symbols on the clay’s surface. He dips his pieces in a corrosive material to develop a glazed patina, giving homage to antique African statues and artifacts from 15th century Benin culture. His work references these ceremonial vessels, where images of tribal leaders were illustrated on the surface. Traditional Benin sculptures were created using clay, wood, and leather, and more precious materials like brass, coral and ivory. And while in seeming opposition, Nash’s work elegantly hints at the organic and billowing lines from French Art Nouveau with the raw, expressive marks of African culture. Through a textural application of glaze, the figures emerge connective to a ritualistic expression of dress and beautification.  


To further honor the human form, he creates jewelry which lay on the necks of his ceramic sculptures; the jewelry is constructed from decorative beads that are fired with iron powder and become oxidized. Through vibrant glaze and raku firing, Nash reinvents our view of African ceramic sculpture art with sophisticated, contemporary style while awakening us to a greater ancestral power from African traditions. He gives his ceramic sculptures names from various cultures reflecting royalty: kings, queens, princes, and princesses, alongside more commonplace African names. Nafisah, meaning delicate. Nkosazana, meaning princess. Eneche, meaning blessing. Dalili, meaning omen. Khalid, meaning eternal.


Woodrow Nash’s artwork exists as his practice, his process and his mastery, where he devotes himself to grappling critical concepts alongside elegant craftsmanship. Clay has become the means through which Nash navigates the cultural disparities of being Black in America, while maintaining an uplifting message of positivity held within the cultural roots and empowered traditions of Africans and African Americans. His work becomes an embodied “combination of expression, symbolism, and aesthetics that yield striking embodiments of the human soul and sensuality.” As a highly venerable artist, clay becomes his ministry, and an impassioned means to honor life’s intricacies and to recognise the communal value of love. Nash sees himself as a vessel through which creativity flows – and every viewer can observe an obvious outpour of love, empowerment, and celebration when in the presence of his ceramic sculptures.