Contemporary Pattern II

Contemporary Pattern II opens Friday December 1st, 2023

In examining the long history of pattern within the history of ceramics, we're encouraged to see that this wellspring is still being tapped. It seems obvious that the human race would eventually figure out that burnt mud would hold water or grain. What amazes us is that beyond function and utility, every culture throughout history has felt compelled to go beyond utility and decorate the vessels that they made. This compulsion to enhance, to express, to make beautiful, continues to thrive today. Please enjoy this collection of patterned vessels that express and reflect the personal voices of these contemporary potters.
Chris Hosbach, KyoungHwa Oh, Kyle Scott Lee, Taylor A. Mezo,
Horacio Casillas, Erika Novak, Yoshi Fujii, Brooke Sharpe Millecchia,
Maureen Marcotte, Sara Ballek, & Forrest Lesch-Middelton.

Marissa Y Alexander Solo Exhibition
Sami Tsang Solo Exhibition
Ray Brown Solo Exhibition
Chanakarn Semachai Solo Exhibition


Artist Insights

A Conversation with Horacio Casillas

CG: What can you tell us about your early years that informs your work today? 

HC: I was raised in Mexico and raised Catholic. Growing up in a country where 95% of the population is Catholic, it’s not only a personal faith journey but a communal one. I grew up surrounded by beautiful churches on almost every block but the memories I have aren’t just about the church buildings, but the events associated with those churches. In La Parroquia de San Jose, my grandpa along with my dad and his brothers would help with the procession of the Eucharist on the feast of Corpus Christi, the whole neighborhood would gather to sing songs and pray as we walked around the block. In El Santuario del Señor we celebrate in April the feast of El Señor de la Misericordia, hundreds of people make a 76 km pilgrimage by foot to this church and thousands more come from all over to celebrate the feast in various ways. Essentially the whole town turns into one big party that lasts several days. The influence the Catholic church has had on me hasn’t just been a spiritual one but a cultural one, and those experiences drive my work. 

CG: How did you get into ceramics? Could you articulate what it is about clay that drew you in?

HC: I didn’t have a declared major when I first entered college so for a couple of years, I just took basics and random classes that seemed interesting including art classes. I got into ceramics because it was just the next class on the list, but it was pretty much love at first touch. I hadn’t encountered a material that was as versatile as clay, a material that could bend to my will. Of course, it often felt like clay wanted to bend to its own will but the challenge to conceive what was in my mind’s eye was attractive along with its use for functional pottery. 

CG: You are currently pursuing two (seemingly different) bodies of work. What insights can you give us into both of these series? 

HC: The first series was the work I developed in graduate school after I was told my work was too generic (which I agreed with). After throwing so many different variations of forms and altering them and pulling hundreds of handles, at some point during the evolution I felt proud of what I was making. And even though evolution never stops I’m happy to continue making this series that I now think of as my corporal body of work. This work is typically wood or soda fired and references the body and the beauty of imperfection. 

My current series is a spiritual body of work which references the soul or spirit. This work is more visibly religious, and although I consider my corpus series to also be spiritual, it is not as obvious. I’ll talk a little more about my spiritus series in the next question.

CG: In a previous conversation you described the impact of watching Notre Dame burn. How did that loss impact your current work?

HC: My goal has always been to glorify God with the work I make. While I do appreciate subtlety, I wanted to represent my faith more than just conceptually.  I couldn’t help but remember a comment from my undergrad sculpture professor “religious art doesn’t sell, don’t make it”. But when I noticed the visceral reaction many had when Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) burned, something clicked and I had a deep urge to make cathedral inspired work. It was inspiring to see people from different faith backgrounds from all over the world be affected by something that hit so close to home for me as a Catholic. Whether it was the recognition of the community that was being affected by this loss or recognizing the loss of art and architecture- society was affected on a higher level. Many people gravitate towards the ornate, the detailed, the decorative- and though I consider myself to be somewhat of a minimalist there is something to be said about the beauty of ornamentation. 

Juan Barroso: Immigrant Narratives

My work is about Mexican labor and the plight, struggle, hope, and heritage of Mexican immigrants. With political administrations that continue to enforce policies that dehumanize and force immigrants into the shadows, recognizing an immigrant’s humanity is vital. As the son of immigrant parents, I hope to pay homage to my people and the dignity of their labor. This exhibition, Immigrant Narratives, focuses on the stories of undocumented immigrants along the US-Mexico border.

 I see the water jug as a symbol of the dangerous journey across the desert. I grew up hearing stories of family friends that died in the desert before making it to the US. The water jug form was also my response to a video of an ICE officer dumping out water jugs that had been left behind by a humanitarian group. The water bottles had been left behind to prevent deaths from dehydration, and to see this man essentially condemning people to death with a smile on his face showed me what can happen when human beings are separated by an “us” and “them” mentality. 

The water jug form references the journey, and the hand-painted images on them depict some of the consequences undocumented immigrants face when the search for a better life is unsuccessful. The image of a child’s hand behind a chain link fence references the harsh living conditions for undocumented children in detention facilities at the border, including dehydration and more than 4000 allegations of sexual abuse in the last 5 years. This image is painful to paint, but I hope that when people see it, it can spark much needed conversations on human dignity. 

Border Narrative Mugs with iron decals. Juan Barroso. 2021.

I have included a limited series of iron decal mugs with images of the ICE officer that was recorded dumping out water, a caged child, and a monarch butterfly. These images were turned into decals from photographs of two large-scale graphite drawings I drew during a short-term residency at Companion Gallery. Because of its migration between the US and Mexico, I see the monarch butterfly as a symbol for the immigrant. The inclusion of the concertina razor wire reminds me of the photographs I saw of a mother and her child severely cut from the wire in an attempt to cross the border wall. In those images I saw an example of the price people are willing to pay for a chance at the American dream and a chance to provide a decent meal for their families. I made this series in an attempt to have both a more affordable tier of work and more pieces with these images out in the world. If I had hand-painted these images on each mug, the price would be higher than $350 just to get above minimum wage and this show would have taken all year to complete. Using a hand-drawn reference, different colors, and different image placement felt like a great way to still make unique pieces with a significant message. 

Before my parents became legal residents, I spent my childhood in Mexico waiting for my mother to get her green card. She sewed clothes, repaired clothes, washed clothes, and sold clothes so my sister and I could eat. We would ride around on bicycles to collect small payments because the people of San Miguel Octopan, Gunajuato could not afford to pay full price. The pitcher forms I have in this show are made from molds of detergent bottles. It was a way to honor my mother and everything she did for my family. The happier images on these pitchers have become a way for me to cope with the political work that takes an emotional toll over time. 

For the hand-painted images I use a small watercolor brush and paint my images with Amaco’s black underglaze on functional vessels. I use a pointillism technique because the process is time-consuming and labor intensive. The process, with time invested, becomes an act of devotion. 

After the imagery is painted on bisqueware, I bisque again to set the image and avoid smearing the underglaze. I protect the images with liquid latex and airbrush a clear glaze on the rest of the piece. I make the work permanent and functional by firing to cone 10 in an electric kiln.  – Juan Barroso