Oklahoma Contemporary
Renata Petersen
Ceramic teal-colored bottles and salmon-colored bars lay in a discarded pile on cement, partially leaning against the white walls, backing into a corner. Some of the bottles and bars appear crumpled.

New Light

Jan. 04, 2023

La casa: An Interview with Renata Petersen

Humor, Zote and community

Raised by a writer and anthropologist, Guadalajara-based artist Renata Petersen pulled inspiration from her parents’ mediums and “found a way to have a narrative” through her own practice.

Five people stand together smiling at the camera. Four of them are wearing a black top or dress, while the person on the left end is wearing a white linen shirt
Artist Renata Petersen (center)

“I didn’t really quite fit in sculpture or painting or performance,” Petersen says. “But I found that in ceramics, you need help! You need help to put the kiln on, for everything, you need help. It’s a much more collaborative process. … Also, many things get broken. So you cannot be so attached to the final product.”

Through this collaborative community, Petersen has produced a number of thought-provoking and intriguing works, often inhabiting the realm of irony. For Limpieza karmática express (which translates to “karmic cleansing express”), on view in La casa, the artist transformed clay from the earth, her medium of choice, into a product that appears to be mass manufactured, poking at cultural values and habits.

“If you give something a significance, the semantics of the object changed,” Petersen says. “I thought about this piece thinking about how we as Mexicans do that a lot, how we give an esoteric value to something that is an industrial-made product.”

Ceramic teal-colored bottles and salmon-colored squares are discarded on a cement floor with rays of light shining. We can see some bottled are crumpled.
Renata Petersen's Limpieza karmática express / Karmic Cleansing Express (detail) (2019)

Creating ceramic molds of a popular Mexican cleaning brand, Zote, Petersen made a small mountain of ceramic, teal-colored bottles and salmon-colored bars of soap, mimicking the product. From a distance, one might mistake these piled, seemingly discarded bottles and bars for the original brand, with some pieces crumpled and squeezed as if used.

“We think it’s almost miraculous,” Renata says, smiling. “It’s like a signature in the domestic life. Everybody has Zote, and they will tell you it works for everything. … Oh you have ants in your plant? Oh, well if you put Zote in your water and spray the plant, it will end the plague. We use Zote for everything.”

Catch the full interview with the ceramic artist below. As the exhibition enters its final days, we’ll unveil one final conversation about La casa que nos inventamos, Guadalajara and cultivating creative communities. Want more? Visit our entire La casa que nos inventamos playlist on YouTube or see an interview with Gonzalo Lebrija here, Jorge Méndez Blake here, Isa Carrillo here, Eduardo Sarabia here, Cynthia Gutiérrez here, Claudia Cisneros here, curator Viviana Kuri here and artist talks held opening weekend here.

La casa leaves our Main Gallery Jan. 9 — see it while you can.


Installation view of Renata Petersen's Limpieza karmática express / Karmic Cleansing Express (2019).

Artists Gabriel Rico (left), Zazil Barba, Renata Petersen (center) and guest curator Kate Green at La casa's opening celebrations. Photo: AJ Stegall.

Detail view of Renata Petersen's Limpieza karmática express / Karmic Cleansing Express (2019).

Renata Petersen: La casa que nos inventamos. Video: Dennis Spielman.

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La casa que nos inventamos Guadalajara ceramics artist interview community humor

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