Most people sense when they’ve drifted onto the high plains of the masculine psyche, because the signposts are obvious — dangerous edges, metal, and jagged wood are dead giveaways, so are hard surfaces, any kind of camouflage, dark hooded features and Terry Palmer’s sculpture.
“I don’t use the broken rough ends anymore,” he said. “I didn’t have enough control. When I look at the older pieces, it’s like a stepping stone.”
Palmer’s clay visages are formidable at first glance, his shrouded faces have an intangible Asian influence to them. Think “Batman Begins” meets the ancient Chinese terra-cotta soldiers.
“This is a mystical world, a fun world where I go to really express more of myself,” says Palmer, who earned his bachelors degree in advertising design from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “I’ve spent swso many years pleasing my clients and other people, it’s just the nature of the job. This is a creative outlet I can’t achieve through advertising. “
“You think you’re going to get it in the real world, but you don’t.”
A year in the planning, his “Who’s on Watch” show is on view at the Lafayette Art Association as he leaves for Texas to accept an award in graphic design. He recently acquired representation in a Colorado gallery as well.
Palmer can’t explain where the idea for the sculptures came from, but he can tell you what they’re not — visual metaphors. It’s up to the viewer to interpret. This and the fact they hang on the wall and hinge together may be all that’s forthcoming, but it’s exactly the same lack of clarity that comic book artists and writers prefer because it forces greater participation by the viewer.
Whatever their origin, Palmer’s brooding, other-worldly males begin with clay, and he’s partial to both the material and the process. Wood is creatively worked to achieve the masculine results, and the talismans are all found objects — shaped pieces of clay, crystals, rock beads. The additions are never planned, just whatever works well artistically. The figure in “Viaje Oro” gazes from a cigar box by the same name mounted on pine. “I love power tools,” he said. “I’m ripping the wood, doing all kinds of things. Wood’s as much of a statement as the clay.”
A lot of what he likes are flowing robes and kimono ties, the aspect of a robed person, spiritual, not earth-bound. You see legs, but never feet. The darker, serious aspect is something Palmer cultivates consciously. “They don’t smile, but they’re not cruel, at least not on purpose. I wanted people to look twice and see something completely different each time.”
Palmer has a raku kiln and does his own firing, which doesn’t always go as intended. “I’m more confident,” he laughed. “It’s so hard to handle some of these things. In raku, clay takes a beating. With “Here Comes the Sun,” I just knew I was going to break it.”
Occasionally, he does. “I hit one (piece) with water and it blew up,” he said. “I should have let it cool more.”