American clay sculptor
During his early period Michael Lucero made composite sculptures using hundreds of thin, hand-made tiles which were attached to wire frames. Often these would be human figures, but sometimes animal forms. Already in these early works, one can see combinations of human/animal, culture/nature, architecture/organism that have remained an element in Lucero’s subsequent work.
In his next ‘Dreamer’ series, Lucero made Pink Nude Dreamer, which consists of the head form that Lucero repeatedly uses for this series. It is decorated with a range of painted scenes reflecting Lucero’s early undergraduate training in painting at Humboldt State University in California.
Employing painted underglazes and sgraffito on a shape that doesn’t directly relate to the imagery, we see typical painterly elements of Lucero’s work that he has become so well known for. One cannot but help getting a distinct feeling of surrealism here. The fantastic images Lucero paints on his forms seem to spring from the sub-conscious and speak to sub-conscious strands of the viewers mind.
Lucero’s interest in the Native American Pueblo dates back to his childhood travels from California to relatives in New Mexico. Here he would come into contact with American Natives and their culture. Native American rugs, jewelry, sculpture and ceramics would come to influence Lucero in his later life. The Californian and New Mexican environment also supplied the artist with a rich abundance of animal life, especially reptiles and amphibians that he loved as a child and employed in his imagery later in life.
This is especially the case in his ‘Earth Images’ installation. Here we are presented with the Hercules Beetle of 1986 (pictured left). The fantastic, upright beetle is distorted and again surreal, painted with images of trees on the one hand and míro-like color fields on the other. Here, nature and culture collide. A closer inspection of the head reveals a pale, haunting ghost-like figure and scenery, perhaps suggesting stories of Native American medicine men or their people’s beliefs. The overall effect is one of a bio-morphic enigma of disparate elements that nonetheless has a naturalness about it.
Lucero pays homage to the pueblo in his ‘Pre-Columbus’ series, which consists of distorted seated figures, glazed in bright colors and painted with environmental scenes juxtaposed with screaming heads and pueblo pottery. Pre-columbian art contrasts with classical and modern painting traditions. The bar code and the tea-pot create a reference to the modern world and in a sense pre-empt Lucero’s next series, the ‘New World’ series (e.g. Lady with Roots, pictured top left), which deals with the radical changes Columbus’ discovery of the New World inflicted on the continent.
In the ‘Reclamation’ series, the artist incorporated his love of collecting antiques and novelties into his art work. Lucero took ‘found’ objects and added to them, creating totally new and compelling works. This series includes the work Angola Carolina which consists of a head in the form of a keg with a large painted beetle as the nose. The piece is reminiscent of the work of American ceramic artist George Ohr (1857-1918) whose work Lucero admires and collects fervently.