For the last 25 years, Joseph Mariscal has been a fixture in contemporary California ceramic art. Mariscal’s ceramic work is figurative in nature, and is derived and inspired by his travels, personal feelings, interactions, reactions and connections to the world and the human condition. From these various sources of inspiration, he extracts a sense of pathos, personality and even humor.
Mariscal’s early inspiration came in the late 60’s, through his first ceramic teacher, Bruce Duke. Duke, who taught ceramics at San Joaquin Delta College for 40 years formally introduced the work of Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson to this students. Along with Mariscal, Duke also gave Michael Lucero and Viola Frey their start in clay. Mariscal began experimenting with the ceramic medium, manipulating and altering thrown pots, face molds and experimenting with “Funk Art” concepts. Mariscal’s work never fully entered into the California funk ceramic movement because, in 1969, like many young men his age, he was drafted and sent to serve in Vietnam where he was awarded a Purple Heart.
Upon his discharge from the military, Mariscal relocated to Cholula, Puebla, Mexico in 1972, utilizing the G.I. Bill of Education to attend the Universidad de las Americas, graduating in 1975 with a B.A. in Art History. It was at this time that his exposure to the birthplace of his parents and “Pre-Columbian” ceramics began to influence his work. The early ceramic dogs produced during his graduate work at Sacramento State (1976-79) have a direct connection to the famous “Colima” clay dogs of Western Mexico and the ubiquitous, wily “street dogs” found in every Mexican pueblo. While living in Cholula, and ancient Pre-Columbian Ceramic Center, he learned to burnish his pieces, and also studied with a local Talavera potter, Crecencio Villegas. Although his work is not overtly Mexican or even Latin American in its content or appearance, it is obvious that this heritage often unconsciously makes its way into the work.
Mariscal’s teaching career began in 1975 at San Joaquin Delta College, in Stockton, California while simultaneously seeking a master’s degree in Art at Sacramento State. A contemporary of Yoshio Taylor (with whom he shared a graduate studio at Sac State), Mariscal cites Robert Brady, Peter VandenBerge, Esteban Villa, and Jose Montoya as influences in the development of his work.