Ceramics Monthly: What inspires your floral, abstract, and figurative forms and images?

Eddie Dominguez: I have been making art all my life. As a child, I struggled through school with one goal in mind—to be an artist. I learned how to be an artist through constant practice. Always a mixed-media artist, my childhood was filled with creative moments that enriched the way I think about making.

My creative life has been inspired by a wonder for nature. I believe in place, and my place in it. I look at things growing and see miracles happen in nature. I want that feeling in my work; I utilize the landscape to achieve it. Growing up in the beautiful, harsh land of New Mexico, much of my earlier work was based on that landscape. Since moving to Nebraska, I observe the prairie and my own suburban garden for inspiration. Gardening has been at the core of my practice. I make work inspired by colors, shapes, and the abundant beauty of simple things. 

Clay has been my core medium; however, I have worked in several different mediums, such as wood, fiber, metal, glass, found objects, photography, performance, painting, and drawing. I find each new medium challenges my creative nature, which is at the core of my being and making. Generally, my clay work has focused on domestic objects like cups, bowls, plates, and platters. I have also made numerous figurative and abstract sculptures in clay. Clay, like soil, is a gift of nature. 

CM: How has your exploration of cultural and social issues (ethnicity, political tension, and gender) influenced your career and the public-art projects that you develop?

ED: Being the youngest in a minority family of nine children, I was influenced by my family to a substantial degree. I understood through them that my hopes and dreams were achievable. I applied to the Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio at the age of 18, and although I did not meet the requirements of a portfolio or letters of recommendation, I built a crate, filled it with artwork, and sent it to Cleveland. They accepted me with a scholarship. I did not allow being brown and disadvantaged in a predominantly Anglo community to upset my dream of going to art school. Being brown in a binary world, I have allowed my Hispanic culture to influence my thinking and work.

Because I did not see many brown people making things, I felt a calling to make public artwork with community in mind. Not having had an artist as a role model when I was growing up, I wanted to be someone who brings art into the lives of others. I have made projects with many kinds of people: those with learning disabilities, gifted children, disadvantaged people, the incarcerated, K-12 students, people who are dying of AIDS-related illnesses, and senior citizens—people of all colors and cultures. So many wonderful people have come into my life because of this work. Having had these opportunities, bringing beauty into the world through the hands of a diverse community of people, has been one of the most satisfying experiences I have given myself. It has been a life ambition and a true key to a happy life.

Photo: Pha Nguyen Photography.

Topics: Ceramic Artists