The audio file for this article was produced by the Ceramic Arts Network staff and not read by the author.

Ceramics Monthly: What topics are central to your work and/or research as an artist and why? 

Michelle Solorzano: My work explores themes of immigration, identity, and culture, weaving a narrative shaped by my personal experiences. Born in the Dominican Republic to a Dominican mother and an Argentine father, I embody the rich tapestry of Dominican heritage—a fusion of Taino, African, and Spanish influences. Transitioning to the US added yet another layer to my identity as an immigrant, prompting me to grapple with the notion of belonging and the fluidity of cultural boundaries. 

Curiosity has been my guiding force, especially regarding the filtered history of my homeland received as a child through colonized perspectives. As an adult, I feel a compelling need to unearth and reclaim my history, challenging preconceived notions and delving into the complexities of my cultural roots. 

Central to my artistic practice is the redefinition of aesthetics, challenging the pervasive influence of colonialism on our perception of fine art. I am compelled to dismantle historical biases that have marginalized the art and aesthetics of diverse cultures. Drawing inspiration from what is sometimes labeled as “naïve” aesthetics, I incorporate symbolism reminiscent of Taino art and embrace the rich blend of traditions stemming from Dominican culture. 

My most recent work is strongly influenced by the Carnaval, which serves as a poignant reflection of the impact of colonization on contemporary society. This vibrant celebration becomes a powerful platform for societal confrontation and protest against established norms. What captivates me most is the sense of community and unity fostered during months-long preparations, where individuals come together to rehearse performances and craft elaborate costumes and floats. The Carnaval transforms art into a communal experience that transcends social, ethnic, and religious boundaries, offering an inclusive space accessible to everyone. 

1 Abrazo, 30 in. (76.2 cm) in length, ceramic, fired to cone 1, mixed media, 2023.

CM: What role does color play in your work? 

MS: Color can affect our perception of a narrative. I employ the element of color to visually engage the viewer while conceptually opening a window to challenging topics, like social and cultural assimilation. I play with the juxtaposition of vibrant and warm colors influenced by the tropical landscape of the Dominican Republic, against a less lively narrative dealing with personal experiences, and the impacts of colonization. The choice of colors in this context serves as a visual language, offering a nuanced layer of meaning and emotion to the narrative. 

2 Asimilando, 5 ft. 5 in. (1.7 m) in height, ceramic, fired to cone 04, mixed media, 2022.

CM: What is the most valuable advice you’ve received as an artist? 

MS: The most valuable advice I’ve received as an artist is to never stop being curious. Curiosity and the need to create are essential companions in mastering fundamental skills that lead to innovation. Being curious has often helped me with problem-solving challenges during the construction process of a clay sculpture by allowing myself to fail, yet holding on to my curiosity and need to create to continue exploring other possibilities. 

In essence, the advice to remain endlessly curious serves as a compass, steering me through the creation process and allowing me to persistently explore, discover, and evolve. 

Learn more at michellesolorzano.com