Cj Jilek: Sculptural Botanist

There must have been a moment in the life of Cj Jilek where she stopped to smell the roses and then noticed the surrounding plants and just never looked back.  Jilek is a ceramic artist who is inspired by everything about plants, the colors, the textures, the shapes, and especially the biology surrounding them.  

Based in Pomona, CA Jilek works as the Assistant Studio Director at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, which gives her the opportunity to not just work with people excited about ceramics but also to work on her craft in a dedicated studio space.  But Jilek wasn't always settled in to her surroundings, she has traveled all over the world including Australia, South Korea and Poland where she worked at a traditional ceramic factory in Boleslawiec.  Jilek's work is a direct reflection of her environment and looking throughout her body of work, one can see it manifest.  Jilek states, "When I lived in the Midwest and flew over the agricultural areas my vessels referenced the aerial patterns of the fields, near the ocean it referenced sea life and the shoreline, in cities it’s more architectural."  In a way her sculptural pieces become tangible memories.

Another aspect to Jilek's work is a very sensual look that addresses  "sensuality, sexuality, attraction, desire, eroticism and acceptance" all elements that come to mind when one gazes upon Jilek's pieces.  In fact Jilek's work also holds a higher purpose for her pieces, she states "I'd like for our natural sexuality to not carry the shame and stigma that is attached to it in so many societies and cultures."  But Jilek's sculptures are not solely feminine she also creates masculine pieces  "When I pair two sculptures together I’m playing with the relationship and tension between forms to elicit the apprehension and anticipation that can arise with human attraction" said Jilek.

Never one to sit still Jilek now embarks on a trip back to Australia, this time as a presenter at Stepping Up: 14th Annual Australian Ceramics Triennial 2015. To off set the costs Jilek began a kick-starter campaign to raise funds, which ends June 11, 2015.  However the hosts of the conference, the Australian Ceramics Association, suffered a fire recently so Jilek has graciously dedicated a small portion of the funds raised to help the ACA recover after such a devastating fire. 

Jilek will be teaching Mold Making/Slip Casting classes this fall at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  She will also be doing workshops at the following: 
Stepping Up: 14th Australian Ceramics Triennial 2015, July 9-11, 2015, Canberra, ACT, Australia
Gold Coast Potters Association, July 19, 2015, Benowa, OLD Australia
Auckland Studio Potters, August 8 & 9, 2015, Auckland, New Zealand
Northern Rivers Pottery Supplies, August 1& 2, 2015, Lismore, NSW, Australia
Palos Verdes Art Center, Sept 12 &13, 2015, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Upcoming Shows:

California Now, June 14-Aug 21, 2015 at Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA
McGroaty Arts Center Presents: 12th Annual Ceramics Invitational Exhibition, June 13- June 27, 2015 Tujunga, CA 
Coastline Community College Art Gallery, July 18 – August 18, 2015, Newport Beach, CA
History in the Making, Sep 4- 25, 2015, Carbondale Clay Center, Carbondale, CO
Stepping Up Ceramics Conference & Exhibition July 9-11, Canberra, Australia

 Jilek works out of her studio space at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA where she is the Assistant Studio Director.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek works out of her studio space at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA where she is the Assistant Studio Director.  Photo © Aimee Santos

  Jilek  works on a cup in her studio at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek works on a cup in her studio at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 The cups  Jilek  creates have a unique style to them that emphasizes the organic nature of plants.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The cups Jilek creates have a unique style to them that emphasizes the organic nature of plants.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 'Quiet Openings' 2009 by Cj  Jilek .  Image courtesy of the artist.

'Quiet Openings' 2009 by Cj Jilek.  Image courtesy of the artist.

 A closer look at one of  Jilek 's cups shows how much time and effort is taken to create detail and form.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A closer look at one of Jilek's cups shows how much time and effort is taken to create detail and form.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 Utilizing wet porcelain  Jilek  dabs dots onto her forms to give it more of texture, one of the many steps taken to create her pieces.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Utilizing wet porcelain Jilek dabs dots onto her forms to give it more of texture, one of the many steps taken to create her pieces.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 A detail of 'Calyx 3' from  Jilek 's  2012 collection.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A detail of 'Calyx 3' from Jilek's  2012 collection.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 Two of  Jilek 's pieces, 'Tongue & Cheek' and 'Anther Series' lay finished while she works in her studio.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Two of Jilek's pieces, 'Tongue & Cheek' and 'Anther Series' lay finished while she works in her studio.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 The creation of  Jilek 's larger pieces requires a session of three straight hours of work in order to maintain the structure of the porcelain and to prevent cracking and balance.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The creation of Jilek's larger pieces requires a session of three straight hours of work in order to maintain the structure of the porcelain and to prevent cracking and balance.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 'Anthoycyanin' 2012.  Image courtesy of the artist.  

'Anthoycyanin' 2012.  Image courtesy of the artist.  

 Molds help  Jilek  create the initial forms for her biomorphic sculptures and saves time as well.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Molds help Jilek create the initial forms for her biomorphic sculptures and saves time as well.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 'Anther Series 6' 2010  Image courtesy of the artist.  

'Anther Series 6' 2010  Image courtesy of the artist.  

  Jilek  uses plaster molds to help balance the setting of her sculpture during a work day in the studios of the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek uses plaster molds to help balance the setting of her sculpture during a work day in the studios of the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 'Perianth' 2014  Image courtesy of the artist.

'Perianth' 2014  Image courtesy of the artist.

 Tools of the trade and then some.   Jilek , like many ceramic artists, utilize a variety of tools to get the texture they want.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Tools of the trade and then some.  Jilek, like many ceramic artists, utilize a variety of tools to get the texture they want.  Photo © Aimee Santos

  Jilek  presses a dowel stick into each piece giving it a unique look and carrying as much of the mark of  Jilek  as possible.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek presses a dowel stick into each piece giving it a unique look and carrying as much of the mark of Jilek as possible.  Photo © Aimee Santos

  Jilek  wears one of her signature necklaces while creating more for her kickstarter campaign.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Jilek wears one of her signature necklaces while creating more for her kickstarter campaign.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Linda Vallejo: Brown Power Artist

As an artist, one works towards the answer.  The answer comes through process and the process yields a tangible artistic style which becomes clearer and clearer.  The same can be said for Linda Vallejo's work.  As one looks through her recent project 'Make 'Em All Mexican.' there is this underlying question of what it means to be Mexican.  

Vallejo isn't necessarily giving the viewer answers but opening their eyes to a possible solution.  Vallejo says " If we can see ourselves positively and are less likely to consider how others view us,  we can grow to move ahead."  Viewers have walked up to her sculptures and felt something society has never allowed them to feel, that of acceptance.  Vallejo repurposes porcelain sculptures and copies of iconic paintings found in antique stores like figures of George Washington, The Virgin Mary, the Mona Lisa and even a bust of Superman, to name a few, and painted them all Brown.  Vallejo gives the viewer a new way of seeing themselves as heroes, leaders and even Saints.  But Vallejo also opened up the dialogue about why, in Latino neighborhoods, the stores carry figures that look white?  

'Make 'Em All Mexican' became the catalyst for the question that lead to her most current body of work 'The Brown Dot Project' opening at Salt Fine Art's 'Colectiva 2015' Exhibition in Laguna Beach from June 4 through September 3, 2015. Vallejo asked the question "Keepin' it brown, what would my work look like if I was a minimalist?" 

Vallejo began working on paper and finally found  the answer in translating demographic population data of Latinos living in Los Angeles County to create geometric patterns made up of thousands of brown dots.  These images give the viewer a minimalist perspective of a larger socioeconomic issue.  Vallejo is literally counting one Latino at a time, brown dot by brown dot.  

Vallejo says "The artistic process presents endless questions with an endless series of answers."  One could compare these new works to the geometric Nazca Lines of Peru where the exact numerical value and perspective are imperative.  Both have meaning, both go deeper on closer inspection and both are culturally significant and relevant.  

To see more of Linda's work click any photo below or visit www.lindavallejo.com

And check out her show at Salt Fine Art in Laguna Beach for 'The Brown Dot Project'' opening reception this June 4 at 6pm-9pm.

 Vallejo's work has always been about the details, yet now her work is so intricate every mark matters.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Vallejo's work has always been about the details, yet now her work is so intricate every mark matters.  Photo © Aimee Santos

I encourage you as artists, teachers, professionals, parents, philosophers, poets in your own right to follow your own heart regardless of it’s color, race, creed, age, gender. I encourage you to follow your dream, to be selfish about your dream and make your impact on the world and on the community that’s meant for you to do.
— Linda Vallejo during Artist's Talk: "Make 'Em All Mexican"
 Every dot counts.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Every dot counts.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 Brown colored pencils line up next to Vallejo's 'canvas.'  Vallejo has stripped away the visual layers and is using minimalistic elements for her current body of work.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Brown colored pencils line up next to Vallejo's 'canvas.'  Vallejo has stripped away the visual layers and is using minimalistic elements for her current body of work.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 Vallejo sketches her pieces in blue pencil and after the dots have formed the shapes she envisioned she erases the pencil mark.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Vallejo sketches her pieces in blue pencil and after the dots have formed the shapes she envisioned she erases the pencil mark.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 The dots have a formula, one that Vallejo meticulously keeps track of with a calculator.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The dots have a formula, one that Vallejo meticulously keeps track of with a calculator.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 At a distance one can see the geometric patterns the dots make and as one gets closer the amount of time and effort taken to create is more evident.  Photo © Aimee Santos

At a distance one can see the geometric patterns the dots make and as one gets closer the amount of time and effort taken to create is more evident.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 'LA 49.3%' of 'The Brown Dot Project' image courtesy of the artist Linda Vallejo.

'LA 49.3%' of 'The Brown Dot Project' image courtesy of the artist Linda Vallejo.

The question that led me to this new series was, ‘if I were a minimalist painter what would the work look like?’
— Linda Vallejo
 'ELA 96.7%' from 'The Brown Dot Project'  Image courtesy of the artist Linda Vallejo.

'ELA 96.7%' from 'The Brown Dot Project'  Image courtesy of the artist Linda Vallejo.

 'Hollywood 42.2' from 'The Brown Dot Project'  image courtesy of the artist Linda Vallejo.

'Hollywood 42.2' from 'The Brown Dot Project'  image courtesy of the artist Linda Vallejo.

 One of Vallejo's notebooks shows the preplanning detail that goes into each piece.  Photo © Aimee Santos

One of Vallejo's notebooks shows the preplanning detail that goes into each piece.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 A figure of a sasquatch lays on its side because it creeps Vallejo out and a binder full of DVD movies that keep her entertained in her studio as she works.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A figure of a sasquatch lays on its side because it creeps Vallejo out and a binder full of DVD movies that keep her entertained in her studio as she works.  Photo © Aimee Santos

  Small test pieces lay the ground work for Vallejo's next potential work, Mexican faces on Japanese paper painted with 'Burnt Sienna' Gouache.  

Small test pieces lay the ground work for Vallejo's next potential work, Mexican faces on Japanese paper painted with 'Burnt Sienna' Gouache.  

 Burnt Sienna is the color that Vallejo has found does not offend Mexicans.  Photo © Aimee Santos 

Burnt Sienna is the color that Vallejo has found does not offend Mexicans.  Photo © Aimee Santos 

 Suddenly instead of brown dots Vallejo felt inspired to work on another piece she had been thinking about that involved Japanese paper and Gouache paints to create elements of the Mexican face.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Suddenly instead of brown dots Vallejo felt inspired to work on another piece she had been thinking about that involved Japanese paper and Gouache paints to create elements of the Mexican face.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The issues and concerns are the same in large and small cities. How we see ourselves and how others see us. How we judge ourselves, our capacity and ability and how others judge us. Color and class issues are everywhere.
— Linda Vallejo
 A broken piece of painted ceramic sculpture that had been painted brown was lying around Vallejo's studio yet to be used.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A broken piece of painted ceramic sculpture that had been painted brown was lying around Vallejo's studio yet to be used.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 A test palette with q-tips and gouache paint lay out on a table.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A test palette with q-tips and gouache paint lay out on a table.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 After moving her pieces from one storage facility to another Vallejo decided there were some pieces she no longer wanted to keep so she destroyed them in her backyard.  Photo © Aimee Santos

After moving her pieces from one storage facility to another Vallejo decided there were some pieces she no longer wanted to keep so she destroyed them in her backyard.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 Meet the artist and creator of the exhibit "Make 'Em All Mexican: Works by Linda Vallejo." This exhibition at the Chicano Studies Research Center Library features works from Vallejo's acclaimed Make 'Em All Mexican series, plus excerpts from critical essays, publications that feature the series, and objects from the CSRC's portfolio on the artist in its collections.

 Surrounding Vallejo as she works on her newest project sit pieces of her last project 'Make Em All Mexican' in which she painted traditional porcelain figures brown.  In a way this project has merely evolved into the dots.  Brown is still important.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Surrounding Vallejo as she works on her newest project sit pieces of her last project 'Make Em All Mexican' in which she painted traditional porcelain figures brown.  In a way this project has merely evolved into the dots.  Brown is still important.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Born in Boyle Heights, a culturally rich neighborhood of Los Angeles, Vallejo has lived and traveled throughout the world.  As a professional grant writer Vallejo also teaches the art to anyone interested in learning.  Vallejo says about her Grant Writing work 'You know art doesn’t make money it spends money.  You have to have money coming from somewhere to be able to buy supplies.'  In fact it was her profession that allowed her to visit Galleries and Museums all over the United States that gave her inspiration for 'Make 'Em All Mexican' after noticing artists utilizing repurposed art and later realizing why can't they be brown.

 'La Pieta' from 'Make 'Em All Mexican' project by Linda Vallejo.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'La Pieta' from 'Make 'Em All Mexican' project by Linda Vallejo.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 'El Andy' from 'Make 'Em All Mexican' project by Linda Vallejo.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'El Andy' from 'Make 'Em All Mexican' project by Linda Vallejo.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 'Make 'Em All Mexican' pieces wait on the counter to be placed inside Vallejo's home while she works on her new body of work.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Make 'Em All Mexican' pieces wait on the counter to be placed inside Vallejo's home while she works on her new body of work.  Photo © Aimee Santos