Figure Sculpture and the Ethical Implications of Objectification

Originally posted on Wetlands Magazine:

Jonathan Steele, "Burnt in Effigy," Woodfired Stoneware, 29"x18"x7.5" 2014

Jonathan Steele, “Burnt in Effigy,” Woodfired Stoneware, 29″x18″x7.5″ 2014

Guest blog by Jonathan Steele. A response to Elise Richman’s From Ambivalence to Conviction 

Working from the figure is an ethical dilemma for me. Because I am male, heterosexual, cisgendered, white, and rich enough to be attending University of Puget Sound, I come from an angle of every privilege. As Elise Richman states in her post From Ambivalence to Conviction, making figurative art means participating in a long lineage that, for the most part, portrays idealized, sexualized and/or passive female objects for the visual indulgence of privileged male agents, but it is also possible to diffuse that oppression by making figurative art that is sensitive to issues of sexuality, subject/object relationships, and voyeurism.

When I make a piece of sculpture from a nude model (who is usually female), I am aware that I am literally objectifying the person in front…

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“Segmented” a Semester’s Conclusion


This gallery contains 4 photos.

My current series “Segmented” has been developing for about half the semester and i see it growing and continuing well into the spring semester. It is currently my focus for my senior exhibition in May and I have ideas and … Continue reading

In-glaze Lithography


This gallery contains 3 photos.

It worked, you guys. I combined the processes of Stone Lithography and Ceramics to create this set of diptych figure plates. Both media: functional pottery and lithography operate within a tradition of multiplicity. I used this to my advantage, creating … Continue reading

Further Development of “Segmented” Series


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Here’s some recent additions to my ongoing series: “Segmented” I’m slowly working through the development of form to create more complex pieces in the same aesthetic and theme as the prior members of the series. I see this work and … Continue reading

Lithography meets Ceramics



This semester I’ve been developing a technique for combining my two loves, lithography and ceramics. Maybe I just like to torture myself, because each process on its own is long and drawn out, with many steps, and many instances where something can go wrong, so combining them with little guidance is either very ambitious or very stupid of me.

A few weeks ago I had successful tests come through the kiln, so for my final printmaking project of the semester I’m going for a complete concept and design of reclining figures, composed in a diptych on separate functional plates. The figures are drawn on a lithographic stone and printed onto paper with a thin layer of gum arabic using ink made from transparent litho-base, colored with cobalt carbonate and modified to a useful printing consistency with Magnesium Carbonate and Setswell. The print is then coated with lacquer and when dry soaked in water until the gum dissolves. I can slide the print off the paper and onto the glazed and fired plate. When I fire the plates again, to near the temperature of the original glaze firing, the lacquer and oil-based medium burns away, the glaze under the print softens, and the cobalt carbonate sinks into the surface of the plate, permanently fusing the print to the final piece.

This elaborate process is currently in stride. My plates are made, glazed, and fired and today I printed my lithographs. My final critique is Wednesday and I’m on a great pace to have the work completed by then!

Bob Clyatt, Figurative Sculptor


This gallery contains 7 photos.

My current work, and the work that I foresee making into the future, is centered around the figure. I’ve been looking at the works of historically revered artists Renoir, Bernini, and Michelangelo for reference and I thought it would also … Continue reading



This gallery contains 10 photos.

Here’s some recent figurative sculpture I’ve been working on. This pair of pieces is the beginning of a concept I’m in the midst of developing. I have more work in progress along this line and am excited to see adjustments … Continue reading

Artist Response: Jeanne van Heeswijk

View Jeanne van Heeswijk’s site here

The working definition of “art” has undergone intense and systematic scrutiny, at least since the Renaissance, and especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. At times I think it has no real definition; anybody who views whatever they do as art is an artist. Art is not dependent on the creation of objects, representation or illusion, the application of aesthetic principles, the conveyance of a concept from artist to patron, or even a clear distinction between artist and patron. Renaissance painters, Minimalist sculptors, and Social Practice Artists can all share the same amoebic identity.  Each tends to hew art’s wide scope to suit their practice.

Jeanne van Heeswijk defines art as “engaging with images”. In her work she says “I paint portraits of people at a moment in time, It’s just that they’re 3D and in real life” She insists that art must return value to the community that consumes it and is primarily a tool for change in society and culture. Artists are responsible for active cultural production against trends of commodification and passive cultural consumption. They are agents of social change. Van Heeswijk’s work resembles that of a community organizer or social activist, which she firmly denies she is. Her ongoing “art installation” in Liverpool seeks to resist the systemic gentrification of working class neighborhoods in North England by going into a community and working with its members to facilitate “cultural production” in the form of a locally run bakery, increase economic activity within the existing community and thus avoid the impending government buy-out and remodel of the neighborhood, the rise in property value, and dislocation of low-income residents.

I think this is excellent work and I firmly agree with Van Heeswijk’s social principles. I dare not refute her self exclaimed identity as an artist, especially since as I looked around at the art professors, museum patrons/curators and all the other art students in the room, there was ubiquitous acceptance. My concern is not that the umbrella definition of art is growing too large to mean anything at all or is engorged to the point of enveloping other disciplines that have a right to exist themselves; it is that when I raise my hand to ask what cultural significance an abstract painting has, Van Heeswijk tells me to “avoid the trap” that is finding intrinsic value in aesthetics or object creation as if Frank Stella and Donald Judd had never lived. My concern is that she imposes the responsibility of “cultural production” solely on artists when countless other human endeavors can and should share that load. My concern is that the simple enjoyments of the application of paint, gestural rendering of a figure, creation of space on a two dimensional surface, material boldness of a sculpture in wood, metal, clay, or stone are all being discounted as invalid. My concern is that I, uncomfortable seeking conflict or seeking to impose my opinions on others, yet finding sweet satisfaction in the enjoyment of those physical objects created by human hands and the manipulation of material, color, line, form etc., am misguided in seeing those things as important, regardless of their effectiveness towards inciting radical social change.

Highlights From My Latest Woodfiring


This gallery contains 8 photos.

Today I unloaded the kiln I fired last weekend with John Benn and Colleen Gallagher at Benn Pottery on Harstine Island, WA. This was my second time firing with them, but was a much more intimate experience as it was … Continue reading