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Beauty In The Rough

Clay sculptures resembling wood
Photos courtesy of Marta Finkelstein

Christopher D. White’s sculptures play with the themes of growth and decay. He finds beauty in both, and he captures that in his sculptures.

“Growth and decay are both processes happening all around us and to us,” says White, BFA’12. “Decay can create beauty. It is not necessarily grotesque. For example, when iron rusts, you get vivid color changes like bright red and orange.”

Photos courtesy of Marta Finkelstein

His sculptures certainly capture the beauty in rough, decaying pieces of wood. But, look closer. Much closer. His sculptures are actually created from clay.

White enjoys the texture of wood but loves the versatility that clay provides. He says that as an IU student, he worked in the woodshop at the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, so he is very familiar with the texture of wood.

“To get this look, I have to work in stages, because clay dries out,” White explains. “When I’m ready, the stiffness of the clay helps me create sharper lines so I can create more details.” After he fires his pieces in a kiln, he coats the surfaces with oil paints and waxes.

Photos courtesy of Marta Finkelstein

White, who enjoyed working with clay during high school, started out studying painting at IU Bloomington. While pursuing his degree, though, he rediscovered his passion for working with clay.

“As soon as I put my hands back into clay, I fell back in love,” says White. From that point on, he focused on clay.

White now lives in Richmond, Va., and is a full-time artist. He teaches a class at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he earned his master’s degree and taught during grad school. He spends a lot of time outside, where he says he likes to observe nature.

“I get inspired by what I see. I will do a little bit of sketching, but sketches can only take you so far when working with a 3-D object,” he says.

His sculptures usually take about a month from start to finish. White says the process can be slow at times, because clay needs to dry slowly and completely to prevent stress cracks.

He says it is not hard to get in the right mindset to work. White says, “Working on my sculptures is easy to do, because I love what I’m doing.”

Photos courtesy of Marta Finkelstein

Christopher D. White and his sculptures appeared in the Original section of the Spring 2016 issue of the IU Alumni Magazine, a magazine for members of the IU Alumni Association. View current and past issues of the IUAM.

Original shines a spotlight on the works, talents, and interests of IU alumni across the globe. Have something unique worth sharing? Let us know at

Written By

Amanda Zuicens-Williams

Amanda Zuicens-Williams, BA’01, is former associate editor of the IU Alumni Magazine. She enjoys meeting IU alumni and sharing their unique stories.

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