Since the late 1990s, Jamie Guerrero has been creating striking one-of-a-kind glass pieces that have gained him recognition around the Bay Area and nationally. In his work, Guerrero draws from his experiences growing up in East Los Angeles as well as from imagery of the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Spark drops in on Guerrero and his team at San Jose’s Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI) as they are hard at work on a new piece.
Guerrero had worked in a variety of sculptural media for years before stumbling into the glass studio while studying at San Francisco’s California College of the Arts. The young artist was immediately won over, by the fluidity of the medium as well as by the precise timing and close teamwork that glass demands. Guerrero made a name for himself early on by crafting vivid multicolored glass vessels, but quickly decided that he did not want to become a production glass blower, making the same pieces repeatedly.
Discovering a new technique that allowed him to work with multiple colors simultaneously, Guerrero began making his “Homies” series, which explores character types and situations that he experienced as a youth in East Los Angeles. He soon expanded his repertoire to include representations of Aztec and Mayan deities, drawing parallels between these ancient civilizations and contemporary life.
Spark catches Guerrero working on a glass sculpture of the Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. It is a challenging project, demanding perfect coordination among all the members of the Guerrero team. Thanks to a fellowship, Guerrero has at his disposal the BAGI’s state-of-the-art facilities, essential for making such a complicated piece.
Once the glass has been liquefied – at above 2000 degrees – Guerrero and his team add color by rolling the hot glass in pigment, then they shape the individual pieces of the sculpture while maintaining a constant and even temperature. It is a one-shot deal that will work only if all the crucial elements come together. After the piece has been assembled, the team equalizes its temperature before it is allowed to slowly cool in a 950-degree oven.
Jaime Guerrero lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned a B.F.A. from California College of the Arts in 1997. His work has been exhibited at local and national venues, including La PeÃ±a Cultural Center, CBS Marketwatch, GalerÃa de la Raza and the Albany Arts Gallery. Guerrero has received grants and awards from the Ryman Master Program and California College of the Arts, and he was an artist-in-residence at San Jose State University in 2001.