Pueblo artist combines traditions with new technology

Turning pottery designs into computer artwork

By Katherine Saltzstein
Native Sun News Today New Mexico Correspondent

ALBUQUERQUE – Acoma artist Jon Juanico turns Acoma pottery designs into computer-aided artwork. In a show of his art at Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center recently, his designs seemed to move and glow, some stationary on canvas, others flashing on computer screens. One piece called “Tumbleweed” shows a blue circular design in the middle of a complex yellow and beige background which makes the circle look as if it tumbles across the canvas. Another electronic piece on a computer screen flashes designs of pink, blue, orange and yellow. Other works include signs of traditional Acoma lifestyle with ladders. pottery, feathers and rug designs.

In “Breath of Pottery,” the artist shows “pottery as it shatters. A piece of pottery disassembles. It’s caught in time,” Juanico explained in an interview at his art show. In this “Breath of Pottery, the blue, black and white design seems to pulsate on the canvas. Juanico’s work is also on jewelry and a puzzle. He also made T-shirts with his designs for his family. He grew up in the Acoma Pueblo, also known as Sky City, which was built on top of a mesa sixty miles west of Albuquerque. Historians think that these ancient adobe buildings and streets have been here since the 12th century. Juanico attended a BIA boarding school on the reservation and went on to Farmington (New Mexico) High School where he took a drafting class “which gave me my inspiration. I became intrigued with mapping and architectural drawing,” he said.

He bought his first inexpensive computer from Craig’s List while he was in high school and taught himself to use it “by trial and error.” “I got an architectural program and used it for drawing electrical and mechanical components and floor plans. I just wanted to be able to provide for myself. I wanted to design my own house.”He went on to get an Associate’s Degree in Computer Aided Drafting and Design at ITT Technical College. He has worked for several Albuquerque contracting companies designing plans for subdivisions and streets for telephone and television companies. He utilizes does Geographic Information Systems, which he described as “mapping skills which can be considered an art form. It’s pleasing to the eye. I make it look nice.”

His family is his inspiration.“My grandparents were hard-working people I wanted to be like that. I admired them. My grandfather was a farmer and my grandmother made pottery. I admired these potters,” said Juanico, a tall, soft-spoken man.
And, his three daughters, aged 25, 13, and 5 inspire him.
“I loved to do drafting and I lived in Albuquerque. But when I had kids I wanted to be on the reservation so I moved back to the reservation and commuted. In my spare time I would mess with computer programs to see what capabilities they had.”


The Tribal Digital Village Network (TDVNet) was created with the intent to bring Internet connectivity to the member tribes of SCTCA and empower their people. The Tribal Digital Village(TDV) is a continued set of objectives to help SCTCA achieve its mission thru technology, first and foremost, devised by the community leaders to handle the technical aspects of meeting its mission statement. The primary mission of Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association (SCTCA) is to serve the health, welfare, safety, education, cultural, economic and employment needs of its tribal members and descendants in the San Diego County urban areas.

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