By NATHAN SOLIS
Jaime Guerrero is a craftsman and an artist, the two fields overlapping to form his glass art. The Boyle Heights native’s upcoming show, Cervidae: Open Season, at the Vincent Price Art Museum explores his intricate glass work and offers insight into Guerrero’s philosophies on nature and hunting. His show features deer heads flush with antlers mounted on the walls like hunting trophies, all of it clear glass.
As a teen in Boyle Heights, skateboarding and punk music kept Guerrero out of trouble.
“Growing up in an underserved community means you don’t have too many choices,” says the 40-year-old Guerrero who now teaches the basics of glass art as the director of the Watts Youth Glass Blowing Program. “In order to succeed you have to learn how to avoid trouble and make something out of nothing.”
Who introduced you to glass art?
I discovered glass a little late. I was 19 when I accidentally stumbled into the glass studio where I did my undergrad (California College of Arts and Crafts). My jaw dropped to the ground. From that point I was hooked.
What skills of your own do you think played a part in developing your craft?
Not sure it was skill that played a part in developing my craft. I mean all craft is about technique but as far as my own attributes I think passion, dedication, and perseverance were the driving forces. Oh and timing! Prior to discovering glass I had been searching for something. You can say I was lost for a few years so once I found glass I became this huge sponge. It gave me purpose. People don’t normally think, “I’m going to be a glassblower” but the fascination was so great that labels didn’t matter. I knew something would come out of it later.
How do you see your cultural background being played out in your art?
Well I draw a lot from personal experience and memory, but also try to address various social concerns that are important. I love working with glass because it allows me to work out abstract ideas whether metaphysical, spiritual or dealing with nostalgia. The process of questioning and rediscovering always leads me to new forms.
For example, the current solo exhibition Cervidae deals with a childhood experience of going hunting with uncles and cousins. I relate this activity to rite of passage rituals that young men go through. Are we exploring a deeper connection with our natural environment and passed rites that have existed for thousands of years or are we teaching young men how to be violent and dominant over nature?
What do you cover in your workshops with students?
First we cover safety. Then students learn to gather glass, use all the tools, and blow their first bubble. After that they learn how to make vessels commencing with a cylinder and progressing into more complex shapes and forms.
How do they react when being introduced to glass blowing?
Youth get very excited when exposed to this medium because it is pretty much nonexistent in underserved communities. I recognize the need for making the glass world more diverse. I am one of very few Latinos with the unique opportunity to work in this medium in my own practice. But more unique in the larger picture is that I’m one of a few glass artists nationwide who works figuratively. I believe I have a lot to offer my students. The ones that take it seriously are getting a lot out of our sessions. At 14 I think they are better than most college students as far as technique goes. Technique is very important for beginners – the art comes later.
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.