Artist Interview: Meet José Sierra

Posted by Brian Malnassy on

José Sierra is one of the eight artists curated into the current featured Gallery collection, Above the Surface. Sierra's refinement and unique style balances organic and geometrical shapes paired with detailed glazing. This harmony results in effortlessly beautiful and fluid forms with eye catching colored shapes and designs. His inclusion in the "Above the Surface" exhibition presents another aspect of contemporary surface techniques/treatments in ceramics. He has fused inspirations from all of the cultures he has lived in through the years and it comes through in his art.

 Jose Sierra Stoneware Cup

Jose Sierra Ceramics Lillstreet


Why have you chosen to work in clay? Is it the history, material, process, community or something else?

I loved sculpting from a young age.  I was exposed to clay as a teenager and did some sculpting in my art classes in middle school. When I entered the Craft School at the university, I was initially interested in sculpture, but the exposure to the wheel was unexpectedly exciting.  I really developed my passion for working with clay in secondary and post-secondary school.

I was also very interested in pre-Colombian Mesoamerican ceramics. In particular, in the sculptural objects and utilitarian pieces for daily life, as well as rituals and ceremonies were of great interest to me.


Your colors range from earth tones to brightly colored oranges, yellows and blues. What inspires your color palette?

The range of textures and colors of the southwest deserts as well as the mountain ranges, both here and in the Andes, inform my palette of glazes and engobes.

The desert particularly inspires my colors in spring; it’s intensely blue skies, and it’s sunsets with their stunning combinations of yellows, oranges and pinks and purples.  

My textures are also responding to the complexity and beauty of the natural textures of the geology of the southwest, such as the granite of the Chiracauas in Southern Arizona.


Your ceramic work incorporates unique alterations and additions. What inspires your forms?

The shapes and lines in the environment and architecture that surrounds me inspire my forms. I am drawn to the fluidity and abruptness of the limestone and granite structures that create a certain narrative in the landscape. By altering wheel-thrown stoneware, and most recently adding additional elements from coil, my work fuses these organic and geometrical forms.  


What artists inspire you? 

My work has many inspirations including pre-Hispanic art and architecture, and contemporary architecture and design.  In the last few years, I feel I am drawing a certain inspiration from Ken Price. I find his work to be very sensual and seductive.  

I also feel a connection with Japanese and Korean potters such as Wada Morihiro, who was also inspired by Pre-Colombian art.  I also am drawn to the work of Tatsusuke Kuriki, Jun Kaneko and Robert Turner. I am really impressed by Robert Turner’s glazes, forms and overall history as a potter

Another undeniable source of influence is modern Venezuelan artists like Jesús Soto, Alejandro Otero, Carlos Cruz Diez and Gego, and their contributions to modern art.


What do you see in your artistic future?

This is a journey.  I cannot predict the future or to where my work will take me.  I only know I’m in constant evolution.



About the Artist:

José Sierra was born in Mérida, Venezuela in 1975. While José is a mostly self-taught artist, he studied art at the University of the Andes in Mérida, Venezuela from 1993-1996, where he learned the basic skills of mixing clay, glazes, as well as wheel throwing. In 1996, José began working professionally as an artist in Mérida, Venezuela, doing mostly sculpture. In 2000, José moved to Iowa where he dedicated himself to both sculpture and pottery. José is currently living in Tucson, Arizona where he is working full time as an artist.


About the Exhibition:

Lillstreet Gallery is proud to present its 2018 Lillstreet Invitational exhibition, Above the Surface. The invited artists represent contemporary ceramic surface treatments at the highest level. From carefully-incised drawings with deep narratives to wonderfully embellished layered decorations, these ceramic forms come to life. Employing skillful combinations of color, glaze and surface, this exhibition is an introduction to these essential facets of ceramics.

Invited artists include José Sierra, Lauren Gallaspy, Margaret Haden, Kate Roberts, Joanna Powell, Michelle Summers, Kevin Snipes & Heesoo Lee. View the collection and shop the work online.


Lillstreet Invitational Show 2018

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

  • Jose work is very inspiring. It was nice to put face to his work and to know more about the artist. Thanks!

    Anastasia Egorova on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.