Rightnowish: In Maria Paz's Sculptures, Layers of Immigration and Ancestry

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Maria Paz (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Inside of Maria Paz's studio, there's all sorts of artwork, partially used paint tubes, unopened bags of clay and handwritten notes on her wooden working table. But the first thing I noticed on my visit was a big display that reads "Vida Ancestral." When I asked her about it, Paz replied that it's a reminder to ensure her work pays homage to her ancestors.

That's fitting, given the medium she's chosen for her work: hand-coiled ceramic sculpture.

Paz is an Oakland-based storyteller who uses ceramics as her canvas, on which she depicts themes of sexual harassment, the ongoing saga around immigration in the United States and more.

She takes modern-day subjects and uses an ancient art form to tell their story; handcrafting sculptures and then painting images and narratives on the outside of the objects. And through this, she not only sheds light on today's problems and pays homage to her ancestors, but she also finds personal healing.

Maria Paz's work
Maria Paz's work. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Paz was born in Chile, and after moving to Southern California as a child, she hadn't visited her native country until earlier this year. As an undocumented resident of the United States, it wasn't wise for her to leave. Prior to the trip, she completed the necessary arrangements to get her proper paperwork, but there was an issue in delivering her paperwork, so she was forced to spend some extra time in South America before everything got worked out.


Back at home in Oakland, after experiencing firsthand the issues with immigration and documentation, Paz had yet another story tell—adding to the layers of work she puts into her hand-crafted sculptures.

In this week's episode of Rightnowish, Paz speaks with me about her personal experience, the larger issues around immigration and honoring her ancestors. To hear all about it, click the link above.

And to hear Paz in-person, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, she'll show her work and give an artist talk at The Painting Salon, at the Royal Nonesuch Gallery in Oakland, from 6:30-9pm. Details here.