Sculptures by Robert Pulley
Robert Pulley is an American sculptor from the Midwest. Large ceramic sculptures on display in the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s sculpture court are inspired by his memories of frequent solitary walks in the woods and along the creeks and rivers of rural Indiana and all the varied forms, colors and textures around him. He says, “Evidence of the effects of time were everywhere in the rock strata, glacial till, and aboriginal artifacts. I found a sense of wonder that embraced mysteries of nature, of change and of chance.”
I have always been fascinated with nature in all of its complexity and fecundity. I have also been fascinated by science as it strives to break down the immense intricacies of creation into understandable laws and principles by using the scientific method.
Though I lack the scientist’s facility with mathematics, I seek to forge a deeper connection to reality and to express through my art the power and mystery I find in nature. I do this by connecting directly to natural processes through the use of chance and by linking my conscious knowledge and my subconscious in aesthetic decision-making by using intuition and improvisation.
Chance is the expression of natural forces too complex and subtle to fully understand. In recent years much has been written about chaos theory as scientists try to define chaotic systems through mathematics. I use my awareness of chaotic systems to create natural forms I can creatively interact with. I thrust my hand into the bucket of clay, slap handfuls of clay into a mass, pound it, beat it with tools, cut it and stand it up to dry. When the clay is nearly dry, I break it with a hammer or other tool. The resulting fragments express forces of resistance and extrusion in the plastic state and then planes of shattering as the material’s strength fails in the rigid state. The resulting small forms are more varied and natural than my conscious mind might have conceived. I interact with them with a knife cutting negative spaces here, a plane and an edge there. In this way many small models are created, expressions of natural forces and human understanding. Most are never used. Some become models to follow.
The large, stacked ceramic sculptures are coil built, one 3-4″ addition per day until completion after a 3-4 month period. Each day decisions are made in relation to the model as planes swell and contract, proportions and relationships change. In the end the sculpture is a synthesis of natural form and human intention, a result of chance, intuition, improvisation and mastery of ceramic craft. The scientist’s work is more analytical and mine more intuitive but we both seek to understand more deeply our world and our lives and to express our understanding to those around us.