2019 Emerging Artist: James Lee Webb

James Lee Webb, Somerville, Massachusetts

James Lee Webb’s aesthetic starts with authentic discovery. His research into how beauty is inherently known and decided, combined with his investigations into his own synesthesia, has led him to develop a body of work that is highly focused on texture and movement. Synesthesia is the physical condition/ability in which two or more of one’s senses are crossed. Webb specifically has lexical-gustatory synesthesia, otherwise known as the ability to taste words. He employs this personal characteristic as an explorative tool for self discovery and art making.

A recent Instagram post by Webb (@wranglerman85) describes his sculpture Beauty Study as, “Art + beauty = viscous coconut milk and burgers with pasteurized cheese!” One can only imagine that those words taste how the sculptural surfaces he has created look—rich, gritty, and a bit slimy and glossy. Webb’s sculptures are covered in luscious surfaces of creamy glazes covering carved folds that mimic thick, flowing liquids; trailed ribbons of slip with the coloring of raw ground meat layered into loose patterns; bright yellow glazes that ooze into the ground-meat texture conjuring notions of melted processed cheese; and the outlier, a gritty paint that takes on the appearance of rough sandpaper. Often the pieces look bisected, giving the viewer a look into their meaty interiors. Could this be what the word beauty tastes like?

Facebook: @james.l.webb

1 Beauty Study #1, 21½ in. (55 cm) in height, earthenware, glaze, spray paint, fired to 1945°F (1063°C) in oxidation, 2018.

2 Beauty Study #4, 21½ in. (55 cm) in height, earthenware, glaze, fired to 1945°F (1063°C) in oxidation, 2018.

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