Dora De Larios
To survey the landscape of Dora De Larios creative vision,
one must not only travel to cities around the globe where her large-scale
architectural sculptures speak a universal language, but to the ancient
past of all civilizations from which her inspiration springs.
Whether in intimate ceramic pieces or massive mixed-media commissions,
De Larios strives to harmonize the animal and the spiritual, the earthly
with the divine. Her artistic world is populated by mythological creatures
and goddesses at once whimsical and fierece. The contrast between
opposing forces is evident in her more abstract pieces as well, as
when spherical mandalas are enclosed by squares.
It is no doubt De Larios ability to translate universal
human dilemmas into mystical and transformative works of art that
accounts for her international appeal. She is today one of Americas
leading clay artists, with an impressive list of accomplishments ranging
from place settings for the White House to a grand cement wall sculpture
in Nagoya, Japan.
Though her art shows definite influences of her Mexican heritage,
those who have been collecting her work for decades are just as likely
to describe the figurative works as Asian, African or Greek. Her studies
of world religions and ancient art at the University of Southern California,
her travels around the world and her upbringing in ethnically diverse
Los Angeles account for the unique cross-cultural influences on her
De Larios was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents and raised
in a downtown neighborhood near Temple Street surrounded by Japanese
families that spoke Spanish. Her limited use of English hindered her
verbal comprehension in school and probably contributed to her use
of a visual vocabulary.
Her familys frequent visists to Mexico were another major
influence on her work. At the age of 8, her parents took her to the
Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City where she was struck by the
awesome power of the 24-metric-ton Aztec calendar stone. She felt
profoundly connected to her Mexican ancestry and knew from that point
on she would become an artist. Both Pre-Columbian pottery and monolithic
stone sculptures played an important role in her decision to work
De Larios early life further informed the dichotomies in
her world view. She grew up with an appreciation for both native Mexican
mythology and Catholicism, finding the green mountains of her ancestral
homeland as exalting as the stained glass windows and sacred sculptures
of L.A.s Romanesque cathedrals. These influences may be seen
in her frequent use of gold leafing, polished and textured metals,
imaginative portrayals of human and animal forms and her arts
ability to exalt and uplift the human spirit.
The artists formal training began at Dorsey High School
and then the University of Southern California, where she and black
student Camille Billops were the only minority art students. Her status
as a Latina in an art world dominated by white males is reflected
in her concentration on the exaltation of feminine forms.
After receiving her degree, De Larios took a 13-month trip around
the world, where her academic studies of world religions and ancient
art came alive and cemented her unique pan-cultural artistic vision.
"I began to see the patterns and similarities between myths in
the various cultures," De Larios recalls. "There were different names
for the deities, but they served the same purpose. They were positive
or destructive forces."
The year-long trip exposed De Larios to other peoples thoughts
and monuments, the contrasts between rigidity of belief and freedom,
the temporary and the eternal, mass poverty and great cultural wealth.
"It showed me how limitless thought is," she says.
Returning to the states, De Larios set up a studio with five
other artists. From the start, her private art sales became sell-outs.
From 1959 to the present, she has been featured inmore than 50 one-person
gallery shows, group invitational shows and juried museum exhibitions
across the U.S., including the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New
York, the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Craft and Folk
Art Museum in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In 1977, she was one of 14 potters selected to make 12 place
settings of dinnerware for the White House to be used at a luncheon
honoring senators wives. The dinnerware toured to six U.S. cities
in an exhibition entitled, "American Crafts for the White House."
Her public and private architectural commissions are equally impressive.
Most rewarding to the artist was being chosen in 1979 by the City
of Los Angeles to create a 6x26 cement mural to present
as a gift to Nagoya, Japan, L.A.s sister city.
Other faraway places boasting large-scale De Larios sculptures
include Oahu, Hawaii (Makaha Inn Resort); Percypany, New Jersey (International
Pipe and Ceramic Corp.); Orlando, Florida (Disney World); Tetiaroa,
Tahiti (Marlon Brandos resort); and Kona Coast, Hawaii (Kona
Closer to home, De Larios sculptures enrich parks, government
buildings and private corporations in Anaheim, Camarillo, Carson,
Chinatown, Compton, Culver City, El Monte, Hawaiian Gardens, Long
Beach, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, Lynwood, Norwood, Pasadena, Rowland
Heights, Santa Fe Springs and Santa Monica,
Among the most impressive of these incredibly diverse architectural
works are a 6x30 blue porcelain seascape for the new Montage
Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, a 36x20 monolith in
cast cement, tile and textured bronze in Pasadena Villa Parke entitled
"Home to Quetzalcoatl," three "Koi Goddesses" in the fountains of
downtown L.A.s Westin Bonaventure Hotel, a 7x40
porcelain and gold leaf wall sculpture in the lobby of the Anaheim
Hilton, an 11x20 stainless steel and illuminated plexiglass
piece given to the City of Carson by Nissan Motors and a 10x21
brass gateway at the entrance of Chinatowns Bamboo Plaza.
Other important pieces for which De Larios has received widespread
notice are smaller and more personal. A series of stoneware masks
that reflect a transitional period of growth in her life earned numerous
awards and accolades in magazines and books.
De Larios has been recognized as one of Americas most important
clay artists in "Whos Who in American Art," "Whos Who
in America," "Biography International," and "Whos Who of American
Women." She has taught ceramics at USC and UCLA and served as a representative
from the American Craft Council to the World Craft Congresses in Oaxtecpec,
Mexico; Kyoto, Japan; and Vienna, Austria.
Despite her 40 years of achievement in the arts, De Larios remains
a humble servant to her vision. She sees her work as a divine gift
with which she has been blessed - -a lifetime of hard work coupled
with the childlike joy of discovery. She is constantly in awe of the
natural processes that allow her to create, from the earths
churning of rocks and minerals into clay and glazes, to the flow of
divine inspiration that transforms the clay into artwork through her