The Queue: Juan Barroso
Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I paint detailed images about the plight, struggle, hope, and heritage of Mexican immigrants on porcelain vessels using a small watercolor brush. My process is time-consuming and labor-intensive. I see it as an act of devotion and a way to stay connected to my family, our values, and our culture.
Your work often uses a vessel form—a mop bucket, a pitcher, a mug—to convey a precise, painted image. Why do you use vessels in this way?
I paint images on functional vessels to reflect immigrant laborers, who design themselves to be practical and useful in a variety of situations. For the immigrant waiting on the street corner for a day of manual labor, being useful in a variety of jobs can mean survival. A vessel can become a part of your everyday life and routine. As such, the images on them can become a daily reminder that we are all worthy of respect and dignity.
A major theme in your art is honoring immigrant workers. Can you tell us about your favorite craft artists or projects that focus on immigration in the US?
Karla García creates desert landscape installations as a metaphor for her upbringing in the border towns of Ciudad Juárez, México, and El Paso, Texas. She creates cacti sculptures with clay to reference her Mexican cultural heritage and as a metaphor for our collective resilience as immigrants. The Farmworker Project is committed to improving the lives of farmworkers through technology, education, food, water, and safety equipment.
What processes do you find most exciting and engaging in your work?
If I had to choose, it would be the painting process itself. The last glaze firing shrinks the dots and raises the contrast in the image. In my black-and-white paintings, the white underglaze (my highlights) remains hidden until the last firing. Seeing patient preparation become clean and precise beauty is cathartic and joyful. Designing a new form is also very rewarding.
What’s one of your go-to / favorite tools in your tool kit?
My Winsor & Newton Cotman #0000 watercolor brush. It holds more underglaze per brush load, which saves my wrists after thousands of dots. The brushstrokes are also smoother.
Which artists, craft exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
Horacio Casillas carves pottery with contemplative designs that reference cathedral architecture. Gabo Martínez carves patterns and lettering on colorful vessels inspired by her Mexican identity. Kristy Moreno makes ceramic work focused on the imagined personas of radicalized future ancestors who survived by decolonizing their way out of patriarchal systems. José Manuel Flores Nava has been making colorful and functional ceramic vessels with sculptural fruit elements that make me think about the labor of farmworkers. All of these artists are of great substance.
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