Woody De Othello

Woody De Othello, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, Leaving Space (process view), 2021. Pigment on cotton sateen. Dimensions variable. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

Participating in a remote screenprinting residency with FWM during the Covid-19 pandemic, Oakland-based artist Woody De Othello was invited to design and print new yardage for the group exhibition, Hard/Cover. The artist used this collaboration as an opportunity to reflect on the past year, creating a hopeful pattern as a backdrop for a domestic scene.

Foliage, watches, and lightbulbs found in the artist’s yardage allude to the idea that, with time, comes growth and change. Invited to create similar motifs in his ceramic practice, De Othello designed vessels that surreally mimic housewares and wringing hands in various states of contemplation—as though the objects themselves are grappling with the current state of the world.

Best known for his anthropomorphized sculptures of household objects, De Othello is celebrated for making vessels that emulate varying states of the human psyche. By approaching his practice as a means of catharsis, the artist imbues his sculptures with complex emotions and draws from the African belief system nkisi, referencing spirit-instilled objects empowered by medicines.

As an artist who uses domestic spaces to hold larger conversations, De Othello continues to expand the limits of contemporary ceramics. Moving to the Bay Area in 2015 to obtain his masters from California College of the Arts, the artist’s expansive vision follows a long lineage of artists who established ceramics as a fine art in the 1960s and ‘70s. He recounts, “the first time I touched clay I knew everything I needed to know about my past and I knew everything I needed to know about my future.”


April 9, 2021-September 26, 2021

Artist Bio

American, born 1991, lives in Oakland, CA.

Woody De Othello is a California-based artist whose subject matter spans household objects, bodily features, and the natural world. Everyday artifacts of the domestic—tables, chairs, television remotes, telephone receivers, lamps, air purifiers, et cetera—are anthropomorphized in glazed ceramic, bronze, wood, and glass. Othello’s sense of humor manifests across his work in visual puns and cartoonish figuration. “I choose objects that are already very human,” says Othello. “The objects mimic actions that humans perform; they’re extensions of our own actions. We use phones to speak and to listen, clocks to tell time, vessels to hold things, and our bodies are indicators of all of those.” Othello’s scaled-up representations of these objects often slump over, overcome with gravity, as if exhausted by their own use. This sophisticated gravitational effect is a central formal challenge in his work. Informed by his own Haitian ancestry, Othello takes interest in the supernatural objects of Vodou folklore, nkisi figures, and other animist artifacts that inspire him. He received a BFA from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton and an MFA from the California College of Arts, San Francisco. He was included in the 33rd Ljublijana Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljublijana, Slovenia, and has recently exhibited with Karma, New York (2019); Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco (2018); Quality, Oakland, California (2016); and UFO Gallery, Berkeley, California (2016). In 2019-2020, Othello was the subject of a one-person exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, California.