Artist Interviews 2022

Wayne Perry  
By Rebecca Adele

Wayne Perry is a Los Angeles based artist. He produces ceramic art, paintings, and prints. Perry has had numerous exhibitions and commissioned works. He’s been commissioned by The Getty, The Wallis Annenberg Center for The Performing Arts, and The Pasadena Playhouse, along with many others. Today, Perry works as a consultant for the LA Metro Public Arts Program, as well as teaching ceramic workshops.

How did you first start creating ceramics?

I first started doing ceramics reluctantly back in 1994 when I was an intern at the then Craft and Folk Art museum. I was studying painting and drawing and was sent by the museum to help with a mural at the studio of Peter Shire. He was gearing up to make his famous ceramic mugs and asked if I wanted a job. I had never even considered ceramics but saw this as a great opportunity so I said yes. I ended up working in his studio producing the Echo Park Pottery for 15 years.

Your ceramics are beautifully designed and unique. How do you choose the design? Is your process organic or do you go in with a certain idea?

I’ve been contemplating ceramic design for 25 years. My training was a combination of architectural modernism and Mexican production pottery, my work usually lands somewhere in-between. I have always tried to push the boundaries of my abilities and what is physically possible with the material while evoking some sort of feeling or deeper meaning. I felt if I can tell a story, make a statement or cause an emotional response with functional pottery then I have really accomplished something.

You're from Los Angeles, how has the city inspired you in art? Where do you draw the biggest inspiration from?

Los Angeles is an amazingly diverse International city sometimes referred to as the creative capital of the world. More often than not black and brown communities are overlooked, unrepresented and sometimes completely left off of cultural maps of LA. We have to tell our own stories and be our own culture bearers. I have always said there is so much more to LA than what’s on postcards. My story is a very LA story, my work is infused with that story.

You put on workshops that teach people how to sculpt and shape clay. What’s been the best part of putting these events on?

I have learned a great deal about the craft of ceramics over my 28 year career. It’s always a pleasure to share this experience. Especially in communities that don’t have access or arts resources. I’ve had thousands of people have their very first throwing experience in my workshops.

I see that you're opening a web store. Can you tell me more about that?

I used to have studio sales and do a handful of marketplace events but I have become reclusive over the last two years (for obvious reasons). I am frequently asked how to purchase my work so I’m hoping this allows me to sell work and remain a studio hermit.

You’ve commissioned work for The Getty Villa and The Pasadena Playhouse, What has been some of your favorite commissioned work?

I love an assignment. I like to research, collaborate and produce under a deadline, I love the challenge. I did a fun project with the Getty and the Institute of Art and Olfaction with scents and history based on the museum’s collection.

You’ve worked as a scenic artist for television and short films. Can you describe what a scenic artist does?

I did work as a Scenic painter for a few years. Mostly for commercials and photo shoots. I specialized in faux finishes; marble, wood grain, asphalt, cement et cetera. I learned how to look at a surface and break it down into textures and colors and figure out how to reproduce it with paint. Lots of making things look old and dirty. I really enjoyed the work but the hours were pretty intense.

Your current work consists of “wheel-thrown vessels, which are altered to humanize them and placed together to use the relationships between them to tell a story”. What stories are important to you that you portray in your art?

The “humanized” vessels are part of a series called “Bodies of Color” where I place black, red and white unglazed vessels in human-like positions and situations (in relation to each other). The clay bodies allowed me to reference race and power structures without directly mentioning it. These are a response to the political climate and unrest of the last 5 years as well as my own personal experiences.

If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

I think I would have loved to collaborate with Prince. He was my very first concert Purple Rain 1985. I was obsessed and have been a lifelong fan. I’ve always been inspired and influenced by music. It's also infused in my work. I’ve contemplated ways of adding a musical element to ceramics. Maybe someday

You’ve done so much and created extraordinary pieces. What’s coming up next for you?

I’ve worked as a public art consultant and fabricator for 20 years for other artists and for LA Metro’s public art program the last 10 years. It’s time to work on my own art in public places. I am shifting focus to larger installations of ordinary functional ceramics pulled together to create drama and a meaningful narrative.

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