‘Plunder Me’ explores native roots

Ceramicist Kukuli Velarde explains the story behind her sculpture “Culebrando,” from her Isichapuitu series, to Alita Rogers and Rick Rogers Saturday at the opening reception at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona. The sculpture is an expression of the pain that takes over someone and through that, the demons that enter a person’s body. / photo by Dorothy Gartsman

Arturo Gomez Molina
Staff Writer

A ceramicist opened the night with a slide show including pictures of her family, her early artwork and her hometown, Cusco, Peru. The Peruvian native and recent John Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Kukuli Velarde, spoke at the opening reception of her exhibit, “Plunder Me, Baby,” Saturday at the American Museum of Ceramic Art.

She said a lot of the inspiration for her work came from real life experiences and experiments.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Velarde said. “Not all my pieces are here, it would be impossible to have all of them here, but there are enough to pay a testimony to my work.”

After the reception, everyone was invited to enjoy finger foods, view the art and spend one-on-one time with Velarde.

This exhibit is just one of 77 in collaboration with the project let by Getty, “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.”

Art institutions ranging from Santa Barbara to San Diego have come together to celebrate Latin American and Latino art from September until January.

The gallery held 15 cases enclosing a colorful spectrum of ceramic artwork, as well as one large painting hung near the entrance, but the most captivating pieces sat in the center of the room.

Five two-foot tall, wildly decorated and child-like pieces were in a circle facing the incoming crowd as part of Veladre’s “Isichapuitu” series.

“These are definitely some of my favorite pieces,” Bay Area native Kiera Peacock said. “The one with the lizards stands out to me the most. It’s just so different.”

Peacock is currently finishing his master’s degree in museum settings at Claremont Graduate University while interning at the AMOCA.

“I love working at AMOCA,” Peacock said. “It was a great learning experience setting up the exhibit and being able to be so personal with artwork.”

Many of the ceramic pieces were created in the last three decades, but looked strikingly similar to ancient Incan art.

Velarde’s “Fodida Indeja” sat in a case at the far back of the gallery.

The three-foot-tall ceramic piece depicted a girl squatting, dressed in ancient Incan wear while turning toward and smiling at the passing gallery viewer.

Her face was painted a soft red, almost as if she was a warrior, and she wore an elaborate bat-like headdress.

“The facial expressions and the ornamentation look like they’re very Toltec or Olmec inspired,” Nevada resident Ben Rigney said. “The pottery is very intricate, as are the colors.”

Rigney is a throw pottery artist and is planning to exhibit some of his work at one of the adjacent galleries at AMOCA within the next two months.

The exhibit displayed 25 of Velarde’s pieces, but she did not own them all; some sculptures were loaned from art collectors around the United States who previously bought her pieces.

“I have collectively owned her work for about 10 years now,” Rick Rogers, Akron, Ohio, resident and art collector said. “I love the textures of the colors and there is humor and violence in her work; it really appeals to me.”

Rodgers owns six pieces from the “Isichapuitu” series alone that were included in the gallery, and said he would also love to own one of Velarde’s early paintings.

“Plunder Me, Baby” will be on display at AMOCA through February 2018.

For more information, visit amoca.org.

Arturo Gomez Molina can be reached at arturo.gomezmolina@laverne.edu.

Dorothy Gartsman

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