The Prieto Family Show: A Growing Tradition of Artistry
June 12-July 10, 2015
1803 Market Street, San Francisco 94103
My father’s professional practice was dentistry, which didn’t do much to prepare me for a career in the arts. So, I am inherently envious of those artists sprung from the loins of practiced professionals, able to articulate the pros and cons of an unpractical path to his or her descendent.
In the case of the Prieto family, both father and mother passed down their artistic heritage to four offspring. Antonio and Eunice met in the 1940s while students at Alfred University, the premier institution of ceramic instruction in the country. They went on to teach at Mills College, where Antonio assumed the position of Chair of the Art Department, until his untimely death in 1967. A third generation has emerged to continue the family preoccupation with craft, be it ceramic, glass, wood, stone, printmaking or literary.
Standout works are by the patriarch of the family, whose vessels are highly sought after and can be found in important ceramic collections throughout the country. All four sons are well represented in the exhibition: Esteban by blown glass, Mark by ceramics, Peter by welded works, and youngest son Paco by wood and metal constructions. All contribute high caliber works. This is a family exhibition, and each is determined to put his best foot forward.
Nori Obata is the wife of eldest Prieto son, Esteban. She works in porcelain. She too hails from a distinguished Bay Area artistic heritage. Her grandfather is Chiura Obata, a professor of art at the University of California, Berkeley, who was one of the finest landscape painters this area has ever seen. Her platters are revelatory—simple, meditative, a glowing cobalt blue slashed by geometric patterning—which either begs for a rare culinary reward or to be simply left to be admired.
The third generation, Thea and Laurel, daughters of Peter Prieto, continue the family tradition of creativity by pursuing paths in creative writing and printmaking. Thea contributes a written tribute to the family. Included in her Family Dialogues is the following passage, which illustrates the thin veneer the Prieto family teeters on between art and life. “So then, what we’re all saying is, our family’s art tradition centers around craft. But really it starts when there’s a bunch of Prietos under one roof like when everyone goes to grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner, or in June when everyone meets up for the Prieto show.”
Do yourself a favor and check out the exhibition. It is full of tradition, family, love and art…rare attributes in the cultural community, where individuality is often its own isolated reward.