Women in ceramics taking over to inspire others

“Con o Sin?”, on display at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in downtown Pomona, is an ongoing collection by artist Christina Erives that examines people's food choices. The work is a part of the “Breaking Ground: Women in California Clay” exhibit which runs through Feb. 19. Erives said she is inspired by her Mexican American heritage and questioning gender roles metaphorically through food. / photo by Casi Martinez
“Con o Sin?”, on display at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in downtown Pomona, is an ongoing collection by artist Christina Erives that examines people’s food choices. The work is a part of the “Breaking Ground: Women in California Clay” exhibit which runs through Feb. 19. Erives said she is inspired by her Mexican American heritage and questioning gender roles metaphorically through food. / photo by Casi Martinez

Kamila K. De La Fuente
Assistant Editor

The American Museum of Ceramic Art is breaking ground with its latest exhibition and accompanying catalog “Breaking Ground: Women In California Clay,” celebrating 44 female artists who have defined and redefined ceramics over the past 100 years. 

“Breaking Ground” brings attention to the significant shifts in California ceramics over several generations of female artists. Rather than using their date of birth to determine their place in this history the exhibition is presented in three sections using the artist’s breaking ground period. 

The opening reception of the exhibit took place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, where a constant flux of people flowed in and out of the venue. The exhibition drew all kinds of people from different backgrounds and mediums to enjoy their art. 

“This subject is very important to the history of ceramics,” Jo Lauria, adjunct curator said. “My involvement was the research of these early generations of California. I chose six women to concentrate my efforts initially because they were all born in the late 1900s, their work then spanned, while their development, their breakthrough moments really were in the 1930s, which is very early in the history of California ceramics.”

Lauria’s role was to also locate objects that would illustrate their involvement and write the extended captions for the exhibition. She said the most rewarding part of her job is being able to make a contribution to the long and rich history of ceramics, her passion that fulfills her intellectual curiosity. 

Lauria said that locating the best and most relevant examples of an artist’s work in the exhibition can be a challenge. Lauria has a master of fine arts from the Otis College of Art and Design with a concentration in ceramics and has been a curator for the last 20 years. 

“My aspirations for the exhibition is that it reaches as many people as possible and for those who can’t visit in person be motivated to learn more about it,” Lauria says. 

She is very aware that women’s art histories are less documented than their male counterparts and aspires to shed light on women in ceramics within the historical component of the first generation, who aren’t getting equal documentation. 

“Breaking Ground is really exciting to me … because it’s all female artists. I am also pretty new to ceramics, as it is not my genre,” said Genevieve Kaplan, associate director of communications stewardship at the American Museum of Ceramic Art. 

Kaplan worked on the catalog for the exhibition, where she was able to proofread and edit some of the catalog questions, ultimately learning about the artists before she even got to see their art. She learned about the artists’ lives and their mediums in preparation for the exhibition.

 “It was really cool. It was exciting to know something about the exhibition before it took place, to then get to see those artists in action.” Kaplan said. 

Aida Nicole Lugo, the museum store and guest services manager at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona spoke about her admiration for the exhibit because traditionally, a lot of women have to choose between family and career. In this way, it is great to see all the women in the show, and how they do it all, leaving a legacy that future women can look up to. 

“It is so inspiring. It is really great to see women excel in the field of ceramics,” Lugo said. 

Lugo currently works with the museum store, consigning artists, and helping with educational efforts, amongst other duties. 

“I’m also an artist myself, I have an art and ceramic studio where I work and play,” Lugo said.  “The future is now, we can follow the example and take bigger roles in the art world while still having a family and not sacrificing anything in between.”

This exhibit attracts a variety of attendees from art connoisseurs, members of the visual art communities, curious onlookers and families from across the board. 

“This place is awesome because it’s one of the only museums that is solely a ceramic space and all the shows are curated so beautifully. All the work I’ve seen so far is amazing,” said Janisse Gracia, resident from the San Fernando Valley, at the opening reception of the exhibit. 

The magic of ceramics catches your eye in whichever corner of the exhibit you may find yourself in. Whether gazing at the mural that extends the length of the gallery to staring wide eyed at ceramic pan dulce, or sweet bread, that looks good enough to eat, the exhibit was in continuous flow, budding with new life. 

Gracia has been doing ceramics for 11 years and works at a clay studio called Green and a Playhouse in Pasadena. She is a student receiving her master of fine arts in Ceramics from Cal State University Northridge. 

Janae Hunyh, an event attendee, has been working with ceramics for eight years. She recently graduated college and is a studio assistant for Karen Tong at Heo Ceramics.

“I often frequent AMOCA to visit any exhibitions taking place or to go to the gift shop. I met one of the artists that painted the mural in one of the exhibits before the event started, and I got to see the exhibit before it was opened officially to the public” Karen Jaranilla, an event attendee.

The exhibit runs from Sep.10 to Feb.19 2023 at AMOCA, 399 N. Garey Ave., Pomona, CA. 

Kamila K. De La Fuente can be reached at kamila.delafuente@laverne.edu.

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Kamila K. De La Fuente, a senior creative writing and communications major with a concentration in public relations, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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Casi Martinez, a senior photography major, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine.

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