Terri's Thoughts on Tonight's Show
My mom once belonged to a small cult of several potters called The Ceramics Mafia.
I was 16 years old at the time, and she had returned to school, taking art classes at a community college with my dad. Out of all the different creative processes and mediums she was exposed to, it was clay that hooked her in. She began with stoneware, utilizing pinch, coil and slab rolling techniques. She reveled in the vague mystery of the final product- the glaze dubious and unpredictable (and for this reason- the kiln had no fewer than 30 versions of ceramic kiln gods perched upon it). She transitioned into making wheel-thrown pottery and developed her craft for the next two decades, enjoying the sensuous, slippery feel of porcelain metamorphosing beneath her touch into mostly functional art pieces. Mugs, bowls, teapots, teacups...There was no shortage of these beautiful vessels in our home.
The Ceramics Mafia who lived, breathed and wore remnants of clay, dust, engobe and glaze on their garments, became her people. They would spend evenings in the clay studio throwing their pots, weekends outside firing up raku, and whatever time was left in between to gather for critiques, talking with their mouths full because they all prepared and shared in an amazing potluck spread featuring cuisine from all over the world (not a bad cook among them). I didn't see Mom a whole lot, but I get it now, and am appreciative that this was part of her history and one of my first experiences with the power of art bringing people together.
The artist we are covering this week brings back some of those memories for me- the passion, the obsession, and the ability of clay to have transformative power that extends beyond the vessel and unifies a community.
Roberto Lugo- his art, his values and his legacy- goes beyond this though.
Although he comes from a warm and loving family, Lugo's roots in Kensington- a Philadelphia neighborhood- has an abrasive edge. Kensington has had a long-standing post-industrialization history of drugs, crime and poverty- although recently, there is evidence of gentrification. It is here where Lugo was bred, born and raised. It is here where through his struggles, he was exposed to graffiti, which ultimately generated his interest in art. When looking at his ceramic pieces, you see the culmination of grit, culture, violence and yet beauty. He reclaims long established traditions and ceremony and infuses their history with poetry, rhythm and street art. Recognizable artists, political figures and social justice heroes become the new iconography. His pieces transcend the confines of the vessel form, crossing into other art genres such as sculpture, painting and installation. And what's more: he invites others into his world of making. Whether he is throwing pots on the street or in his studio, Lugo utilizes his artistry as a way to connect with people and to create community.