Arts & Culture
Artist Wesley Harvey on homoeroticism, dinnerware, and bunnies
Published: June 29, 2011
If you were making millions of dollars with this and selling it in Pottery Barn, things would probably be different.
People have told me that I should approach the foundation and show them samples. But I’m kind of nervous … I was nervous to the point that I didn’t have any Finland stuff on my website. At all. And then after the Fl!ght show, I put it all up. So I have all three shows here in town with the work up as well as the new Fiestaware and the new found plates. And some blog put the UTSA Satellite show up — I don’t even know where this blog’s at — and some guy from Florida contacted me in February and said, “I love this.” … And he asked for a price list for dessert plates, salad plates, dinner plates, cups, and saucers … and he ended up getting six place settings. That was like the biggest order I’ve done so far. It was a 30-piece set that he bought.
Are they safe to eat off of?
He wanted to eat off of them. So the commercially produced ones are microwave-, dishwasher-, and food-safe. I fire the guys on hot enough so that the image melts into the glaze. So it’s permanent. It’ll never come off. The found plates, some of them already say that they’re not food-safe. So when I do the found plates, I’m thinking more of sculpture — they’re not meant to be eaten off of. I think the price reflects that, too. I don’t really rely on my functional work as income, and so I don’t price it that way. I have friends who are like, “Your pots are too cheap … These should really be $50 and not $30.” I think I need to start off much smaller. When you’re charging $50 a tumbler, you’re really only targeting the ceramic market. Ceramic people have no problem paying $50 for a tumbler, but my roommate has a huge issue with paying $50 for a cup that she’s gonna drink out of. But in the ceramics world that’s like a normal price. And I would rather more people have them.
Do you feel that in any way your work is speaking to gay pride? Or is it just something you’re doing because you love the way it looks? Is there a context?
Well, I’ve been interested in sexuality since undergrad. So it’s been in my work ever since I became an artist. I went to Indiana University, which has the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. And so it’s this institute that’s all about sex. Alfred Kinsey started it. He was a zoology professor and started teaching a class on sex ed and researching sex and now it’s become everything from books and magazines to artifacts and artwork. So they have this huge collection of porn and sex toys and Moche pottery, which is my favorite.
What is that?
I don’t know the exact date of when it was happening, but it was very early in time and they were doing bowls and plates with drawings of sex. But it was like homosexual sex and anal sex and masturbation — from this primitive culture. I would always go there and look at that work and look at all their stuff. And since I was a student and I was a ceramics major, they let me have access to the stacks. So I was able to look at all these different things. And so, then when I went to school again, my graduate thesis at Texas Tech was on kitsch and sexuality. It was called “Kitchen Sex.” So sex has always been within my work. And when I was in grad school, I was doing very overt kind of work with the rabbits actually having penises and having sex or doing installations with dildos. And people told me that it was too much and that I should cut back and be more covert because you’re never gonna get a job with this kind of work.
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