Art affects everyone differently but serves as a universal language. My work reflects a life of need, growth, and change. Through my work, I attempt to communicate experiences of my past and present environment.
I create art in order to share memories, visions of places I’ve been, concerns about the environment, and observation of the human condition as well. To do this, I use many different elements from my life and experiences. Subject matter may be difficult to separate and identify, but I try to create work that embodies an intuitive gestalt or the flow and response around an idea.
My reasons for using clay are simple and basic. Clay allows me the total freedom to create work that shares its connections to my background and my experiences of working with the land. I believe that our past, present, and future conditions and our environment exert considerable influence on our sense of being. In turn, our experiences also affect who we are. My language echoes the origins of the earth. I have worked the land in various parts of the country and have harvested many types of crops and produce. All of this is part of me, and I have enjoyed celebrating these experiences of cultivation. Now I enjoy cultivating clay as a means of expressing ideas connected with human sustainability.
When I first began working as an artist, I found myself struggling with some of the basic art materials, but luckily I began using clay, initially to relax by creating simple pots. As I continued to experiment with the versatility of this material, however, it led me further and further into an exploration of clay as a means of expressing my experiences. And as I have developed as an artist, I have grown to accept my past and to rely on memories to help me in the present. I cannot deny, ignore, or forget who I am or where I have come from. My work is a mirror of a past that I constantly reconstruct for visions of the future.
Interdependence is a recurring theme in my work whether it’s positive or negative in nature. The basic ideas surrounding the current body of work are merging the concepts of a pumplike form from previous work with organic subject matter such as seeds, roots, leaves, and general vegetation forms to create the current organic and mechanical wall forms.
The ideas and thoughts for my work are all part of my many years of working as a migrant worker traveling around the country from north Texas, south Texas, Florida, California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and the states in between. During my many years as a migrant worker, I have always been very observant of my environment and especially of nature. I wouldn’t trade my life’s experiences as a migrant worker for anything–it has shaped and molded my life and continues to shape and mold my ideas for my work.
Juan Granados was born in Floydada, Texas in 1962. "I spent my early years traveling with my family as migrant farm workers as we worked the fields throughout the southern half of the United States. From these experiences, I learned the values of being observant of nature, and I learned to value the interdependence of nature. My educational experiences included Wellington High School, Clarendon College, the University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma, post-graduate work at Corpus Christi State University, Sam Houston State University, and I completed my MFA studies at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio in 1991. Since 1991, I have taught at Eastern Washington University and am now teaching at Texas Tech University."
The idea for Objects and Memory: Toys, Tools, and Weapons, came to me after returning to my studio from a long drive out in the countryside fields in Lubbock, Texas. Some of the thoughts I had were about the times I spent out in the fields and the things I would see and find.
When I returned to my studio I was examining some objects I had collected from many years ago. As I was deciding how to make a piece to communicate the idea I had about the various objects, I stated making a list of objects I had.
As the list of objects grew, I noticed a pattern of purpose for the objects. The purpose and use seemed to be for recreation–toys to provide entertainment for children, tools to make tasks easier, and weapons to protect and provide a means of hunting for food.
All objects I found came from the fields and abandoned houses near fields. The list of toys included lead cast figures, marbles made of actual stone, an old sling shot, a cast metal gun, rusted jacks, and parts of other toys. The tools were a hatchet head, a large dagger handle, arrowheads, and other stone tools.
Stone tools were probably the very first tools and weapons used by humanity to survive. As I thought about the history of these objects that I found out in the middle of nowhere I thought that the area where I had found them was possibly where homesteading pioneers had once lived as well as native Americans before them. I then wondered about the struggle for life and death that might have taken place for the piece of land I had stood and worked on.
The arrangement of the objects in rows is a simple approach similar to the way crops are planted in rows–a row of toys, tools, and weapons.
Image #2 – Detail of Objects and Memory: Toys, Tools, and Weapons
Title: Seed and Sprout
Scale: 27" x 14" x 10"
Media: Earthenware and glaze
Title: Sprigs and Seed
Scale: 29" 18" x 11"
Media: Earthenware, metallic oxide pigment and glaze
Note: Below is an artist statement about Seed and Sprout and Sprigs and Seed. I developed a body of work related to the theme and ideas listed below.
My interest in observing nature was a very important part of my childhood experiences growing up doing migrant labor for ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week.
This type of mundane labor allowed me to be fascinated by watching plants grow through their various transformations throughout the growing season. Also this occurrence kept me interested in nature. I have many fond memories and would not trade them for anything else. My interest in the natural world provides constant nourishment for my library of ideas for the growth, development, and harvest of new artwork.
Both sculptures, titled Seed and Sprout and Sprigs and Seed, derived from the qualities I find simple and profound about nature. I am currently working on this series and find it challenging and exciting.
Techniques/fabrication used for the installation piece called Plots 1–4
The work consists of 140 individually hand-formed stumps situated on four supports. The supports consist of constructed wood, foil, and wax pigmented with burnt umber and yellow ochre. The stumps were fired at cone 04 and completed with a saturated black-copper oxide glaze. The final firing was at cone 06.
Techniques/fabrication used for the installation piece called First Harvest
The piece consists of twelve earthenware and glaze floor forms that are pressed, molded, and individually shaped by altering; the forms are heavily textured by hand and sprayed with an airbrush with glazes and stains and fired to cone 04.
Image # 14
Techniques/fabrication used for the installation piece called Objects and Memory: Toys, Tools, and Weapons
This piece consists of eighteen earthenware and glaze floor forms that are pressed, molded, and individually shaped by padding and altered. The forms are topped off with individual hand-built forms that relate to the title (toys, tools, and weapons–jacks, a toy pistol, sling shot, figures, a hammerhead, an ax-head, a facet handle and pipes, arrowheads, hatchet heads, musket balls, bullets, and a knife part and handle, etc.–about seventy-two ceramic objects all fired to cone 04.
Image # 12
Techniques/fabrication used for the installation piece called Edible Pair
The work consists of two hand-built earthenware and glazed pieces that are heavily textured by hand, glazed, and covered with copper sheet and patina. The support part consists of two separate wood constructed forms covered in copper sheet and patina.
Technique for all the wall works:
SLIDE IMAGES: #1 – 15
The method that I use to create my work is similar to making a paper form. I basically make the shape in the form as close as possible to the desired form that I want to create. The paper form takes on the shape of a piñata with form in terms of paper bulk. To start, flat sheets of paper are used to enclose the larger amounts of wadded up paper to make the volume of the form. To hold the paper together, strips of masking tape are used to strap the paper together to hold the desired form. After the shaping of the paper form is complete, quarter-inch sheets of clay are rolled out. The entire surface of paper-form support is covered with clay by overlapping the clay over the ends of the edges no more than 1/2 to 1/4 inch. After the paper form is completely covered, I determine the front and back if the form is similar on both sides. Additional strips of clay are applied in a layering effect to achieve an exoskeleton-skeleton for the back of the form. Another method that I currently use involves the use of large inflated balloons that best suit the forms that I am trying to achieve. If the correct balloons are not found, a few balloon forms are taped together to achieve the desired form (and then the process is continued as in the paper method). One advantage of using the balloon technique is that it allows for a more even resistance from within the clay form (the hollow interior is important to keep weight as minimal as possible for wall hanging purposes). Pin holes are used to reduce the pressure of air from within and holes are covered up again until the desired shapes eventually form. Eventually, the entire backside has a second layer of clay that will act as a supporting buttress for the form during the drying and firing processes. Once the form has been allowed to dry to almost leather-hard stage, the work is then slightly or heavily padded to refine the desired shape and to tighten up the clay for strength. Slab built additions are then applied, and cross-hatching and slip techniques are utilized to ensure proper connections (any air pockets are noted to make sure the pin holes are added before complete drying occurs and to avoid blowing in the kiln). After all the parts and elements are added and the work has dried to slightly past leather-hard stage, then the work is cleaned off with scrapers and sponged down to achieve a smooth surface. If the clay body has heavy grog additives, the grog makes an excellent textural surface. If the grog texture is not desired, the surface of the clay can be smoothed down with your hands or firm but flexible plastic lids, which can be made out of coffee can lids or something similar to that type of plastic density.
To achieve careful drying of large forms, I use several layers of newspapers and allow the work to dry on several layers of bubble foam that are used on top of mattresses. The foam allows for the work to stay in the conformed and desired shape. The top of the form is then covered with several layers of newspaper to allow for the newspaper to slowly absorb the excess water from the work. The air in the studio dries out the paper and the cycle continues until the work has dried enough that the work can be left uncovered for a few days–then the firing can proceed.
Large amounts of grog are used to lay the greenware forms on their backs for bisque firing. The forms are can be fired in either electric or gas kilns with an oxidation atmosphere.
The type of clay that I have used varies between these two clay bodies. One clay body consists of:
50 percent talc
50 percent Kentucky ball clay (Note: this clay body was used by Ron Nagle during the early sixties and seventies; I am not sure if he is still using it.)
Glazes used are of high concentrated copper colorant to achieve a leadlike color; also a metallic oxide pigment is sometimes used. Other glazes are sometimes used with a 2 – 1 ratio of Ferro frit 3110 or 3124. The work is bisqued at cone 04 and glazed fired at cone 06–05, using either gas or electric oxidation atmosphere. Some of the works, #3 and #4, have metallic oxide pigment as a colorant.
Other non-ceramic materials are used, including wood, wax, pigments such as yellow ochre are added to the wax. Copper sheets and patina are also used on the support/stands; also copper sheet and patina are applied to the ceramic surface on some works (as indicated on the slides).
Firing method and (cone) temperature(s):
Bisque fired at cone 04, gas kiln in an oxidation atmosphere.
Glaze fired at cone 04, electric kiln in an oxidation atmosphere.