African statues

How do contemporary artists grapple with complex art practices? In an increasingly visually saturated world, artists hold power to shift paradigms, create social change, and impart impactful messages on their surrounding communities. Many professional artists choose to connect modern concepts with historical practices to tribute their roots and traditions that may have otherwise been forgotten. We see this connection within Woodrow Nash’s contemporary African statues. 

Woodrow Nash’s sculptures intersect a contemporary visual language of realism, rich with the significant material culture of clay, with a historical ideology that references African statues and art.

Through this juxtaposition, he examines the human physique from both a physical and spiritual lens; he constructs ceramic artworks that highlight both the body’s natural and mythological form. His empty-eyed sculptural busts hauntingly develop their own personalities, referencing the intricateness of the human body, while simultaneously calling upon male and female archetypes. 

african statues

His sculptures are sensual – they delicately and accurately portray the human form through realistic proportion. His African statues have elegant posture and intense facial expression, which seek a real-life connection from the viewer: they are waiting to tell us their story, a narrative rich in symbolism and folklore, in which they prayed to their gods, gave homage to the land, honored their ancestors, bore children, created families, where people fought and died, and in which their tribe sought communal love above all. In one-piece, titled Yihana, meaning congratulations, a traditional Ghanaian name, a woman painted in a zebra-like pattern postures a pregnant belly. Nash upholds the values of motherhood and feminism through this celebration of the female form. Her nude body is not sexualized but honored as the creator of life itself. In many ways, all of Nash’s pieces honor humankind, in our never-ending attempt to live more deeply connected to ourselves, to our earth, for each other, and in the name of communal love.

Throughout his expression of humanity, he works with molds to create multiples of his sculptures; however, no two African statues are alike. The vibrant, expressive marks are uniquely painted and glazed with fervor. Nash dresses his sculptures in extravagant costumes and jewelry, emphasizing an iconography that ranges from stripes and interlocking geometric patterns to more subtle silhouettes. In his acclamation to more traditional cultures, Nash models his African statues after many tribal groups and regions, most notably 15th century Benin.