The Queue: Jonathan Christensen Caballero
Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the pages of American Craft magazine. Our Winter 2023 issue is centered on the theme inhabit and is hitting mailboxes now! Join now to reserve your copy. In The Queue, we invite the inspiring individuals featured in this issue to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.
Crafted from life-cast molds, Jonathan Christensen Caballero’s sculptures incorporate labor implements, ceremonial dress, and gold luster to depict the labor, lives, joys, and struggles of Latin American workers in the United States. He is currently artist in residence at the Interdisciplinary Ceramic Research Center at the University of Kansas. His sculpture Seeds of Tomorrow/Semillas del Mañana appears in the upcoming Figuring Space exhibition at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, which Jon Spayde wrote about in “Standing in the Room Together” in the Winter 2023 issue of American Craft.
How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
My multimedia figurative sculptures depict Latin American laborers, their families, and their descendants who are trying to make a better life for themselves. The sculptures focus on both the endurance needed for such labors and the love and hope for future generations.
Your sculptural work is life-size. At Figuring Space it will be featured among other life-size work. Why do you create at this scale?
The human scale creates a direct comparison from the sculptures to the audience, so the artworks’ labors and humanity are made more visible. The Latin American community’s contributions are with us every day through the homes we live in, the buildings we work in, and the food on our tables.
On your website, you write, “Our bodies aren’t solely destined for labor, but also love, joy, and acceptance.” How do you communicate this in your work?
Our jobs are integral to sustain our society, but they often take us away from our loved ones. I depict tender moments between a mother and son, a wife and husband, or a grandchild and grandparent to remind myself of the hope and motivations that are required to endure.
What’s one of your go-to tools in your tool kit that the world should know about?
My ceramic practice begins with life castings from family members, friends, and community members. These castings are then made into plaster press molds of their faces and hands. I enjoy using life casting because it closes the gap between the people I hope to represent and the clay sculptures.
If you could have any craft artist’s work for your home or studio, whose would it be?
I have long admired and been inspired by Puertorriqueña ceramic artist Cristina Córdova and her figurative sculpture. If I could have any piece from her, it would be a wall-hanging sculpture such as Aquí Siempre Hay Más Sol.
Which artists, craft exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
I am excited to share that I will be co-curating my first exhibition, Perhaps Home is Not a Place, with my dear friend Joey Quiñones at Alfred University. The show will open February 17, 2023, and includes artworks from ten artists: Juan Barroso, Lucy Kim, Aida Lizalde, Carmen Lizardo, Sharon Norwood, Jada Patterson, Ashlyn Pope, Moises Salazar, Arleene Correa Valencia, and Victoria Walton.
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