What has kind of stopped you and you felt, this is challenging?
I think there is lots of challenges like personal in life that come up. Everything from a pandemic to personal things that can happen that can slow you have to work through. I think what may be most useful to talk about is one of the bigger challenges I’ve had with my art work is distinguishing what is genuine versus what feels like is expected. I say this because when you go through the university system you spend a lot of time becoming a really insecure person in a lot of ways. Because you are put on all these expectations for what your work is supposed to do based on the community your existing in which is the academic world so you start to feel like well my work needs to make a statement on something, my work needs to address a social issue often times and you start thinking in that way and you also think is a really defensive way where it’s common for a university system to push students to approach the critique issue as if it is a defense and not a moment of constructive feedback. And so that mentally has been something I disagree with but something that has been hard to shake as an artist. Because you leave the university system which again I have all these opinions about art given that art is not well defined it is in a very insecure place it is constantly trying to defend itself, even if you are the head of department your trying to defend why your department should have funding especially if it is in the arts. So you have insecure faculty insecure students, everyone is trying to defend why this has value, you trying to tie it to a social issue art because maybe if your art says something provocative then it’s valuable. That mentality was super damaging and I think it hit me really hard in grad school. Grad school is this really great opportunity for a lot of things and building primarily community of people I can rely on, and there was good critiques and there was some good things but it also did a thing it made me feel like a god damn lawyer I had to come in and defend why this thing had value and why it should exist. There is something to be said for that, it is an academic setting and you should have some academic rigor I just don’t think that is the right way to do it. It’s not the university system structure that I envisioned to be the most productive. And so you leave school and I left at a strange time, I didn’t have a theses because Covid hit most of my work was abandoned it was just a mess. So You leave and then you’re like well? I was dealing with these things while I was in grad school but once I got out it just really hit. You start to realize it’s so important if you are going to make good art work that it be genuine first that you’re not trying to make some shit because you feel obligated to address some social cause you can’t go into art work being How do I defend this, you got to make it because you believe in it and you think it should be something that exists in the world if you do then it becomes this personal thing about you and all though it seems like that will make it more isolating it makes far more universal art work. It makes things that more people can relate to because it’s real it’s about a human and more people can see that maybe they’re not going to get the same narrative that you intended if it’s not some didactic thing where it’s like here’s a dead fish and some bleached coral, and which again I’m not trying to I hope that there is not an artist making something that I’m going to offend because there are ways that you can address social issues in art work and have it be genuinely good I’m not saying that art can’t address social issues but if your art work is being done in a way because you feel you need to do this or you feel you have to follow some school then it never makes good art work and I’ve made a lot of bad art work in that line of thinking. And it’s still a struggle. There is so much going on in the world that sometimes you just want to make something that seems like the appropriate thing and it just becomes this disingenuous piece of crap because you’re caught up doing what you think you should and social media is only going to exasperate that problem because you see what everybody else is doing and you see what is popular according to other people and all social media makes you even more insecure and now you just want to build some ego or build some false self and say Oh I’m making this work and it fits in line with whatever you know, It’s great and you know that’s one thing but often times it makes work that’s not very good, it makes work that’s disingenuous you know and it’s like that’s not what art should be about in my opinion. It shouldn’t be about ego, it shouldn’t be about this false image of what’s good based on what everyone else thinks is good. If you make really genuine art work that is going to be good. Because it will inherently be relatable because it will be you and you’re a person and there are traces that are relatable to everybody. So, How can we make really genuine art? So that is always a challenge. How do I make things, I’m making this because I believe in it versus I’m making this because I’m hopping on the band wagon of thinking that I’m following and then you’re not being an independent creator you’re just making some shit because, but again it’s so nuanced I say this but as a beginning student one of the best things you can do is copy people’s work because you don’t have a language and your just trying to learn and not even about copying people’s work it’s just there are different stages in everyone’s life where they are figuring out what they’re doing and if you’re young you copying something because you want to know how to do it that still is like a genuine academic pursuit so it’s not just about make something similar or doing something with a similar ideology cause sometimes that is genuine people make similar work that’s fine and if it looks similar that’s fine and both people can be good depending if it’s a genuine thing and artwork within a school or within a certain language are similar so it’s not about how similar the artwork is at the end of the day is it genuine. And I think as a person who views a lot of art and is interested in a lot of art work it can be really easy to see that. Right now goopy glazes are popular, there are a lot of people making goopy glazed things and there’s good goopy glazed things and there’s bad goopy glazed things and it’s really easy to see and I can see this person exploring this and it feels like it’s genuine and then you can see of it and it’s it this feels like somebody who’s doing this thing because they think tht is the right thing to be doing right now. And that’s I guess how I’m looking at it and if it’s genuine work that’s how it comes through. Is that challenging to do? Very.
I think you have to tell the truth and the truth is very difficult to tell, it makes you completely and absolutely vulnerable and it makes you completely and absolutely afraid and It is one of the most courageous things that you can do and if you are copying somebody’s work tell the truth about that and that’s good.
Yeah and it’s honest and if you love the work you are making and it looks like someone else’s, then it’s just in that school of work and it’s a continuation of that conversation. Again, who’s the judge of whether you’re doing something genuine or not? Only you can be. But at the end of the day there is something about the work that is produced as a consumer or a person that’s looking at it, something comes through or it doesn’t. It’s either going to make that connection or it’s not . For me, when I see people even if their making similar work to somebody else if you talk to them, you interact with them the work that I like, any time I interact with that person I’m like oh this makes sense why I like your work and the work that I don’t like and I’ll sometimes interact with those people and I’ll I don’t really get it why I don’t like this? Like you actually are totally in line with what I thought would be my experience here. I don’t who’s the arbiter of that or who judges that but I think being true and genuine to yourself and not doing things for others validation on line or others validation or your own ego thinking you need to address some issue or something because you think that is the right thing to do versus what you truly believe that’s something that’s always hard to navigate in our practice.
I think that’s one of the hardest things you know to just to that. We talked a little about it but what’s on your horizon, what’s coming up for you?
Right now, the big things I’m looking at the nonprofit I’m starting called La Serra Collective that’s a huge part of my daily mentality the whole point of that is all the art accessibility and how we can really change the way the culture perceives and experiences art. So I’m doing a lot for that and that’s a big thing. Beyond that I still maintain my own studio practice and that’s always challenges I feel like I have a full time job. The nonprofit is an important thing to me and it’s really high on the priority list but I also help a lot in my families winery and that is what financially sustains me. So I need to do that and I’m remodeling the house, I’ve got all these projects that take up a lot of time so balancing time is really but I my art practice is still really important. I feel like more so because if I’m not doing that then I find myself just getting angry in daily life my emotional status suffers. And so the art practice is really important. Right now, I’m still making work, I’ve got a sculpture that’s wet, now that I’m working on it I’ll have a little time for this featured artist thing, I just shipped a little cup to LA a cup being held by two hands a piece for a cup show to a gallery my friend is starting that I’m excited for and I have a show at Harvard Ceramics with my friend Andrew Casanada that I’m very excited for that my friend set up and that is at the end of August. And, at the beginning of August I have a big wood fire in the big kiln I have here in Denver and that wood fire will also be tied into the nonprofit. Those things are kind of anytime you can do anything in your life where you can overlap projects that’s when I’m happiest because wow, I can get a few things done with the same amount of energy.
If you were to give advice to an artist just starting out, what would you tell them?
Mmm, I think I would tell them three different things. And they are the three things that have kind of been guiding me through tough times lately. I have a lot of shit I could tell them, I guess I would say I have a lot of opinions about the university system and whether that would be healthy or detrimental depending on their situation. The three main things I think I would try to communicate to them is You are who you need to be. No matter who you are you are who you need to be. Acknowledging your self value is really important and acknowledging that whoever you are you have the skill set you need even if it doesn’t feel like it and that’s not time to surrender and say, I can’t do anything. Because it’s not saying you’re perfect the way you are, you should always have to work to do things to improve and to grow and to learn. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with where you are or who you are, so I think that is the first thing, you as a person is valid and you have potential and there are things you can do with that as an artist or as any kind of member of society. The second thing is you are where you need to be. I think a lot of times we feel like I can’t do this because I don’t have this yet. You know we build a lot of these excuses and we do these things, like I need to move out of this city because there’s nothing for me here. And that no matter where you go as a person you problems follow you changing location never does anything and yes there is always something you can do where you are. Again, it’s not to say you should stay put and give up. It’s more so you should surrender to the idea that you have agency as a person there are things I can do here and there are things I can do in my body as a person it’s kind of similar these things kind of overlap but you know really establishing that in a young artist is really important no matter where you are there’s something you can do. There are things you can do and you can be OK with it you don’t have to feel like why I look all around and I see that this person is at this residency doing this shit you just got to let it go and I’m here and who I need to be and where I need to be. I guess the final thing I Would say is at the end of the day, don’t put too much wait on any of it. You are who you need to be and where you need to be and at the end of the day the most important thing is no matter where you are or what you are doing you care, you love and you are good to the people around you.
I think those are really good things. My last question is, if you could is there anything you would change from your past? And what would that be?
My quick answer is no, because to go down that road is really heart breaking and hard. I find it really hard, I often times get in the mind of what I could have done about anything, be it my career, personal things or whatever and to do so takes me out of the moment I’m living in and usually makes me feel bad. I’m never like woo I’m glad I didn’t do that It’s usually wish I would have done this and where I do fall into the lines of thinking it really can be heart breaking and just stop me in my tracks to do that. No there’s nothing I would do differently because I can’t, I’m not there.
Yeah that’s how I feel too, that’s a super power I don’t have.
Right, I can talk about trivial things like “man I wish didn’t bump into that mail box with my car, that’s something I wish I had done differently” but that’s also kind of like it’s trivial, whether I hit that mail box or not means very little in my life but the big things that actually would change my life, I don’t even want to touch that with this kind of 20|20 vision I have to be right now and I have to live in the whatever right now.
I’m just going to follow up, I know I said that was the last question I do feel like that’s a gift that artists have that maybe not everyone has we do have to live in the moment because it’s what you’re doing right now, right this instant that where you are what you’re what you’re doing that makes things possible. That may be true for everyone but I know it is true in the arts.
Yes, I think it is true for everyone I just think that people that are in a thing that they are really passionate about which if you are in the arts you are really passionate about it but also if you are in any other career field that you truly have passion for and you’re not doing it for money you’re doing it because you are passionate about, you are doing it because you love it, then you are living in a way where you are really genuine to yourself and to be genuine and to be genuine and to be honest and to love one’s self makes it really hard to live a life of regret living a life of regret you carry a lot of resentment and when you are carrying that resentment it’s really hard to be genuine. I think it’s just to really be passionate about what you are doing is to be really genuine about what you’re doing and to be really genuine makes it hard to live in other time frames. Because to do that would require a lot of beating up on yourself, which don’t get me wrong I’ve done plenty of that those aren’t the times I’m proud of, that’s not what I want to be doing. I want to living in the moment, I want to be engaged with the things I’m passionate about I want to be making artwork I want to be pushing my nonprofit I want to be doing these things that I see as high quality in this world. Yeah I think it happens with artists but it’s not exclusive to them.
Thank you John.