“It surpassed my expectations of what I thought it was going to be,” says Acoma artist Jonathan Juanico of his debut solo show, “Degrees of Tradition,” which opened at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s Artists Circle Gallery on January 19, and runs through April 8.
“I was floored at how things were put together, and how things worked, and to have the amount of people show up that did,” Jonathan says. “That was another thing that caught me by surprise – I didn’t have enough words for the people that were there, and I should have been a little more prepared, because I didn’t think there’d be that much of a following.”
Jonathan is a self-taught, emerging artist whose graphic designs transform Acoma symbols, stories, and aspects of the natural environment into cutting-edge and distinctive digital imagery that commemorates the rich fabric of Acoma culture and arts.
“Growing up surrounded by pottery-making people in Acoma has always given me inspiration to achieve what I can with my abilities,” Jonathan says. “I can sit and stare at pottery with amazement and wonder at how much effort and time has gone into a piece. I tend to get lost inside the patterns, symbols, and prayers of the potters’ designs, and when I do my work it becomes very meditative.”
For Jonathan, that love of pottery never translated into becoming a potter himself. “I was never one to be able to sculpt and paint pottery, so I decided to use what I did know to try and create something that I haven’t seen. My work combines my Acoma heritage with my AutoCAD training, and experience as a Geographic Information System specialist.”
Jonathan knew there was a strong market for traditional and contemporary Acoma pottery, but didn’t know how digital artwork would be received. “I guess I always questioned, not so much my abilities, but just the way that my artwork is more contemporary, and it was kind of wild to see so many people interested,” he says of the opening reception. “It was nice to talk to all these people, and get their interpretations and opinions on my artwork. That feedback helps you grow, in a sense. I’m always asking myself ‘how can I draw this?’ or ‘where can I go from here?’”
It’s not clear exactly where Jonathan is going from here, but it appears as if the only direction is up. “People are already in contact with me for commissions, or wanting to buy copies of the works at the show that had already sold by the time they saw it.”
“I give you guys a lot of the credit for what it turned into,” Jonathan says of the IPCC’s exhibit curator, marketing team, and partnership with Shumakolowa Native Arts (which produced a puzzle in a collector’s tin of one of Jonathan’s designs). “It’s already created that opportunity that I’ve always wanted, or tried to create with my business, hoping that it starts to gain momentum.”
“It was a lot of work of preparation, and running around, and trying to get things together. I think having this event made me really try and focus on some of the details I had been putting off or avoiding for a long time, like naming pieces, and talking about the inspiration behind them, and even creating an organized portfolio,” he says of his logistical responsibility to the show. “It was the first time that I really sat down with somebody and was able to show them my work on a business-type level.”
With a little more than halfway to go, Jonathan considers the exhibit to be a huge success. “I love what I am doing and that is important to me. My work comes from my heart with my people and my children as my motivation. It’s warming, and I feel blessed and thankful that my artwork is touching people in a way that they can enjoy it.”
Learn more about Jonathan and see more of his work HERE >