The Queue: Virgil Ortiz
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?
My work is based on educating people globally about the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, a historical event that has been swept under the carpet, not taught in schools, and omitted in textbooks. It’s an awakening of the truth and education of Pueblo history. I’m reviving social commentary in my traditional clay works and recording a timeline of past and current events.
What are your favorite / go-to tools in your studio?
It depends on what medium of art I am working on that day. Music is an essential element that is constantly bumping, no matter what I do in my studio. If I work on clay, I love using clay tools that my mother handed down to me. For creating garments, the rotary cutter is a must. Digitally, Photoshop is at the top of the list.
If you could have any contemporary craft artist’s work in your home, whose would it be and why?
The gargantuan ceramic works of Cristina Córdova and Juan de Dios immediately come to mind. Their massive creations are not only an inspiration, but the stories they tell through art are critical. I connect with their works because they also use art to educate about their bloodline and where they come from.
What are your favorite current sci-fi or fantasy series? Do they include craft?
The film Prometheus from the Alien saga is forever ingrained into my brain. The entire series was created around one of my all-time favorite artists, H. R. Giger. His artwork combines humans and machines; he calls it biomechanical. Perceiving and looking into the future resonates with me—it helps me to reach a demographic of sci-fi fans using art and unexpected imagery.
What do you want people to know about Cochiti pottery?
Our people's clay works are a timeline and recording of our history. We are still utilizing age-old methods and materials handed down to us. It connects me to our ancestors and provides therapy, prayer, and teachings. I want Cochiti clay works to inspire humankind to acknowledge our history, which has been on the verge of being erased. It’s a reminder of all the atrocities that our people have faced and survived and of the strength not to let it happen again.
Which artists, craft exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
I recently had the opportunity to view and experience the work of photographer and human rights activist Claudia Andujar at her show The Yanomami Struggle in New York City. For over five decades, she has devoted her life to photographing and protecting the Yanomami, one of Brazil's largest Indigenous groups. This exhibition speaks directly to me because of the similarities between the colonization and genocide that happened to our Pueblo people and what is currently happening to the Yanomami. Alongside her work, a selection of Yanomami drawings are also featured, depicting their own perception of nature and the universe—a must-see.
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