Richard Carter (American, born 1959)
Stoneware, wood-fired 45 in. x 45 in. x 8 in. (114.3 cm x 114.3 cm x 20.32 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase with funds from George and Bea Gibson Fund, Marcy and Mort Friedman Acquisition Fund, Becky B. Krisik Endowment Fund, Richard Carter, and Michael Himovitz Fund2009.22
Returning to the Bay Area in 1985, after studying with Ken Ferguson at the Kansas City Art Institute, Richard Carter was met by the AIDS epidemic and experienced overwhelming grief for his friends and contemporaries who were lost. In response, he began a series of elegies in clay entitled Life/Afterlife, which he completed in the 1990s. Trust is one of those works. At the outset, Carter embedded nails into ceramic slabs to express his pain. These were followed by a series of grid pieces memorializing close friend Troy Burdine. Burdine first approached Carter when he learned he was dying and asked that upon his passing Carter cast his body in plaster. The idea was that Carter could create from the plaster mold. This act would give Burdine a measure of immortality and hopefully also raise awareness of AIDS by the unusualness of such a posthumous collaboration.
Burdine died on October 27, 1997, and Carter made the plaster cast the following day. It was neither immediately apparent nor easy to process how to go about creating an expression worthy of his friend’s memory. Many months of meditation went into coping with the loss and visualizing the tribute. A moving series of clay sections arranged into grids evolved over the next two years. Among the motifs featured were casts of Burdine’s head, legs, chest, and hands, evocative of suffering and sacrifice. For the artist, the squares composing the grid were a literal means of intellectualizing and compartmentalizing the emotions he was experiencing. In many ways, Trust is as much a form of self-portraiture as a tribute, something on which Carter projected and then exorcised his own fears and sorrow.