A major theme of the weekend in Racine was the idea of stepping out of pre-set boxes. There were a whole range of ‘boxes’ being discussed including our own personal boxes we put ourselves in as artists. Because of those conversations, I wanted to bring up the piece by Jeffery Lloyd Dever that was exhibited in the Racine Museum of Art’s (in)Organic exhibition running through February 1st, 2015. This was already shown on Polymer Clay Daily last Friday, but since I had the luck to be part of a conversation with Jeff about this piece, I thought it was worth showing again and sharing some of his thoughts.
This piece really pushes beyond Jeff’s usual presentation in that it is all black. Completely absent are the glowing gradations of color, the fine lines and the back filled spots that he is so well known for. While standing around after a full day of discussion already, the conversation turned to flaws, and Jeff stated that no one seemed to see the flaws in his work because of all the varied detail. He felt that distracted viewers from the imperfect line or the errant fingerprint. This naturally brought up this all black piece of his since those elements were there to distract. Was it harder to create and finish this new work because there were no visual distractions? He said no, that the limitation of the palette was really quite freeing.
What he wanted to know in turn was whether the work was still recognizably his. We gave him a resounding “Yes.” He seemed surprised. He had worked outside his own still fairly roomy box by abandoning his colors and his details and even working with new forms, and yet, we still could see him in it. Why is that?
My thought on that question is simply this: When an artist is working with their own authentic voice, when they’ve gone through long periods of exploration and discovery, the knowledge and experience they’ve gained over time flows out into their work. I see Jeff’s signature in the cleanness of the shapes, the fluidity of their connection, the sparseness of elements so that they each have space enough to be seen individually and, of course, the organic source he constantly returns to in the forms and compositions he chooses. It may have felt quite different for him, but for us, it is still uniquely Dever.
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