african sculpture

The Kingdom of Benin, also known as the Edo Kingdom, or Benin Empire, is now identified as southwestern Nigeria. Many people in this culture were craftworkers, and made functional tools for cooking, such as pots, pans along with weapons. Craftworkers were divided into groups called guilds, and spent a lifetime, just as Nash does, mastering one specific craft, learning the unique material processes, for both functional and decorative needs. They employed workers in guilds for wood carvers, ivory carvers, leather workers, weavers, and blacksmiths. The brass caster’s guild was of the highest class – as they were the only group allowed to work for the king. In Benin, their African statues were not made from stoneware or terra cotta, but instead, they constructed cast sculptures from brass and bronze using a technique called lost wax casting. In a similar additive process, Nash’s sculptural molds reference the intricate forms from the Benin Bronzes; his unique studio practice gives homage to these traditional African statues, referencing the commemorative heads of ancestral altars. Nash alludes to the ceremonial facets of these sculptures while celebrating the everyday person, emphasizing that every one of us carries a piece of God within us.

In a sense, Nash awakens the viewer to seek answers within – to recognize the intrinsic power of the human form, to praise it, and to love ourselves, despite our imperfections. He does so while honoring his own race and family history. In order to celebrate Blackness as an American, he explicitly looks to his ancestry as a form of connection and commemoration. A pervasive intersectionality exists between American contemporary artists, who may look at social issues from a lens of inequality, and artists like Nash, who seek to uphold the canon of African-inspired art through a ceremonial lens. While both types of artists navigate empowered topics of diversity and power, Nash does so with a goal of recognizing the great aliveness of our psyches and souls. His artwork does not conjure abhorrent imagery of injustices, but instead, becomes a venerable tribute to everyone impassioned and driven to create, through artistry, through sculpture, and through deep exploration of an expanded consciousness

Nash has mastered clay processes, most notably the use of constructing and firing using stoneware clay. His handmade ceramic sculptures are a direct representation of his passion for sculpting the human form and upholding a mastery for realism. In addition to his elegantly crafted constructions, he fires his African stoneware sculptures with a method called raku glazing, a traditional Japanese firing process from 16th century Kyoto. Nash is able to draw upon this unique process for firing his pieces to exemplify the innovation he holds within his practice and craft. The raku technique is often completed in an outdoor kiln, when glazed ceramics are taken from the kiln while they are still glowing red hot and are then placed in a material that would be able to catch fire, such as sawdust or newspaper. This technique starves the piece of oxygen, which creates a myriad of colors within the glaze. The resulting product is a uniquely colored handmade ceramic sculpture that shines, vibrantly, full of life.

Today, Nash’s African stoneware sculptures are collected internationally— his collectors’ demographics have no racial boundaries, and include everyone from working professionals to affluent sports figures and entertainment superstars. He upholds a desire that many have to honor the connection to their ancestry. His African stoneware sculptures are found in the homes of Katie Couric, Tina Knowles and Smokey Robinson.