Reflecting family and culture through ceramics


Jessica Quiroz, a senior art major focusing on ceramics and printmaking, plans to have a ceramics exhibition next spring. Her experiences growing up in an immigrant family enmeshed in Mexican culture, and her classes at the University of Dallas have shaped her skills and built her mission of connecting people with universal themes expressed through cultural art.

Quiroz reminisced about her unique experience with the art program at UD, and how it positively affected her work.

“I think what brought me to UD was mainly, I really liked the art program and how small and close-knit it was,” she said.

She enjoyed working directly with professors due to smaller class sizes, and as a Dallas resident, living close to family and a home from which she drew creative inspiration. 

“I grew up a lot with traditional Mexican folk art,” Quiroz explained, “so it’s something we have always had within my family. Just always ceramics, even a lot of traditional ceramics.”

Initially, her goal was to create hand-thrown function-ware pieces crafted on a pottery wheel. However, a beginning ceramics course given during the pandemic changed her trajectory with a pleasant surprise.

She said, “The hand-built was something I was really proficient at, and that I excelled at, compared to hand-throwing.” 

Thus, Quiroz now pursues sculpture, and her baseline of Mexican culture and family remain themes in her work. For instance, she draws inspiration for many of her skeletal sculptures from the holiday Dia de Los Muertos. Other influences include Aztec mythology, stories from her family and Catholicism. 

“I guess my favorite subject matter that I like to work with a lot is the female representation because within the Hispanic household you always look up to the mother,” she said.

One example of Quiroz’s work directly pulls on female representation as a source of inspiration while also combining family, Mexican culture and a reflection on motherhood.

“One of the pieces I made,” Quiroz said, “currently, for my senior synopsis was a skeletal figure of a mother that represents, in a way, my mother, but [also] the universal theme of ‘mother’ within the Latin culture.”

The sculpture consists of a beautiful skeletal woman in a vibrant dress that depicts a sign of protection from the evil eye on the front. In another one of her pieces, the skeletal figure is used again with several vibrant, sun-like wall hangings that smile from behind the two pedestals. Quiroz’s talent and passion for her subject matter shines through all her intricate creations. 

Quiroz hopes that while staying rooted in the specific mode of her culture, she can reach people from other perspectives by incorporating more universal themes inside her beautiful figures.

“The general theme would be just the preservation of family,” she explained, “and how that personally relates to me and how this is like where I come from but even then their [her family’s] story is what’s basically guiding me and how I’m going to make my own story from that.”

Through culture, traditions and bonds, family and community come together. Quiroz’s art uniquely represents her family and culture alongside the broader experience of these themes. Her sculptures will undoubtedly spark more connections, cultural discussion and imagination in those who view her work in the future.


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