My Angels Are All Of You | May 2021
Paz, born in Quilpue, Chile, is a self-taught sculptor based in Oakland, California.
They paint gripping visions of their past on large ceramic vessels, using bright colors to tell intricate stories of their history, ancestry, and identity.
Q & A with Maria Paz
You are from Chile, right?
I am. I was born in Quilpue and we migrated here when I was 9 months old. We left due to the Pinochet dictatorship. I grew up in Palm Springs.
What brought you here to the Bay Area?
So many reasons, but mainly that it’s a sanctuary city. It felt like a safe place for me to land. And I of course wanted to be where all the artists and queers were. It’s been such a journey, but this place really is a queer haven. I love it. But I am considering moving to New York.
Your work feels like it’s a lot about community. Do you feel like maybe in the Bay you’ve exhausted that in terms of your inspiration?
I feel like there’s so much nectar still to be had here so I don’t feel that way. I think I need to be a little more stimulated by my surroundings. I really love going to shows, and I have so many friends here that are really special people, but I just feel like I’m looking for something that I maybe can’t find here. I think it’s newness! I want to feel like a small fish.
Did you start this kind of work when you studied ceramics at City College of San Francisco?
I didn’t study there, I worked there as a lab tech. I took one class and then I met the head of the ceramics department for City College at Fort Mason. I was making these nose bowls, like cups with noses on them, it was kind of cute but it was bullshit, and he could tell that I was just really excited and inspired. There’s this long waitlist to become a lab technician because you get access the studio and you work six hours a week, but he’ll choose people who he thinks would thrive in the environment. He’s Venezuelan and I think we just really hit it off — he’s now my mentor. Then I didn’t have to take classes anymore and I just learned so much about ceramics, making glazes, recycling clay, general cleanup of spaces, understanding how not to have a ceramic space that is toxic because it so easily can be. I did that for seven years. I learned everything I know from him! Olí Quezada.
When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I decided I didn’t want to go to art school and that was a big move for me. Funny enough, I took a bunch of interesting prerequisite classes to prep me, but I knew I would have to wait years to go because I was undocumented and to be able to get funding or a scholarship as an undocumented person is very difficult. I think once I decided that I didn’t want to go to school, that I didn’t want structure in that way, that I didn’t want to be influenced by what my cohort was doing, I was like, alright, let’s fucking do this solo. I’m going to have to go much harder, but what’s the end result after school? What would I want? I want to show in museums, I want to travel with my practice and for my practice, and eventually, my biggest goal is to open an art center for different minorities, for kids specifically. I want it to be a very well-curated, intentional center that works specifically with kids one-onone. Because I never knew — I was gay and undocumented, and I didn’t know that I could make art and that people were going to be interested in what I was saying, or that my vision could become its own thing.
Now with your practice, how do you structure your time? Is it difficult in a live/work environment?
It’s a blessing and a curse. I wake up and make some coffee and then write in my journal for 5 hours. It’s hard when it’s your home, but it is starting to get easier. I notice one of the things I have to do to really get work done is to leave in the morning, even if I go and buy a cup of coffee or go for a run, or something. If I do that, then I can have a super solid day. I’m still figuring it out.
Find more of Maria's work:Maria's website
Maria's interview with YBCA