2020 Emerging Artist: Jared Peterson

Jared Peterson, Red Lodge, Montana

Ceramics Monthly: Who is your ideal audience?

Jared Peterson: I’d like my work to be seen by everyday folks. In my art, I repeat simply rendered motifs—dogs, birds, mailboxes, fence posts, cow skulls, and cacti—to create relatable narratives. By making my motifs and characters both iconic and repeatable, viewers can easily enter the stories I tell. Similarly, my art employs humor and cuteness. I use these qualities to evoke a physical, rather than cerebral, initial reaction to my work in order to draw people in with a smile or laugh, freeing them from the pressure of finding an immediate meaning in a piece of art. In turn, the work emotionally disarms viewers, allowing for organic and personal investigation. I never want to alienate a viewer by seeming too haughty. Employing a little humor and lightheartedness makes art seem less like a big, intangible idea and more like an everyday experience we all participate in.

1 Jared Peterson’s Dog Totem Vase, 13 in. (33 cm) in height, wheel-thrown, altered, and slab-built stoneware, slips, underglaze, glaze, fired to cone 3, 2017.

CM: What do you think is the role of an artist within our current culture, and how do you think you contribute to it?

JP: An artist’s role is to create art that continuously challenges what the artist knows about themselves. As a second-generation Mexican American born in New Mexico but raised in Appalachia, I take inspiration from traditional Mexican crafts in order to recontextualize those objects with my multicultural lens. Alebrijes (folk-art sculptures of fantastical creatures), Arboles de la Vida (Trees of Life), and papel picado (perforated paper banners) are all examples of crafts made by families or unknown artisans, and were some of my first introductions to Mexican culture. By incorporating the forms, colors, and whimsy of these traditional crafts that attracted me as a child, I honor the artistry of these cultural objects and their makers for audiences unaware of their existence. In this time of national racial tension, I have an artistic responsibility to discuss my Mexican heritage and credit the craftspeople and creative traditions that inspire me to make.

2 Jared Peterson’s New Bones, 32 in. (81 cm) in height, slab- and coil-built terra cotta, terra sigillata, underglazes, nichrome wire, fired to cone 04, 2019.

Using traditional forms with my motifs of American suburbia and tropes of the American Southwest allows me to explore my Mexican heritage and my American introduction to it simultaneously. I explain the ways in which I am naive to much of Mexican culture, but take pride in my exploration of being a multicultural American. The US is a hub of multiculturalism, and we all participate in the American experience. My work invites viewers to not only celebrate my personal cultural history, but also that of any person who looks to understand more of themselves and where they came from.

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