MQuan's California Dreaming

Celebrated Brooklyn-based ceramic artist Michele Quan has created over 30 wall plaque 'portals' inspired by the beauty of the West Coast and the imagery of the dream of California in her mind. Created specifically for installation in the setting of ESQUELETO los angeles, Michele has approached the beauty and mythology of the Golden Coast as filtered through the eyes of a New Yorker. Drawing from her extensive library of symbols that she has curated over the course of her career, Michele has crafted a language of images that combine to describe the ocean, mountains and energy of Los Angeles in visual form. I was able to chat with Michele while she was installing these gorgeous pieces about her inspirations behind this body of work.

MQuan ceramic art installation


Alexis: So tell me, why this show – what is the impetus behind California Dreaming?

Michele: I guess it started with the series of portals that I made for The Whitney. It was really fun to make lots of different shapes and sizes, and collect a group of symbols from the library of symbols that I use. For that grouping, it was all about the building, and the experience of going to the Whitney and what that means. I was really excited about them, and I wanted to make more. I was also really excited to come out to California, and thought I should go back into the library of symbols that I’m using, and focus it on my idea of “California.”


A: Sure, like an outsider’s idea.

M: Yeah, a little bit, like an image in my head. You think of the Golden Coast, of people who moved out west in search of gold, the sun, and the landscapes – so I wanted to bring in the marigold. The rainbow always represents the sky for me. The eye and the web – I think of California, and L.A. specifically, as having this cosmic idea to it. People are coming here with a certain kind of dream, a tuned-in vibe. The eye also reminds me of Lauren [Wolf, owner of ESQUELETO]; I know she loves the eye shape. The indigo dot is for the ocean and sky; I wanted to bring in the crescent moon; the straight lines represent the water of the ocean. So I wanted to bring all those symbols together, eyes and webs and sacred geometry. I was mostly really motivated by my excitement to come out here and spend a week. I really like L.A.!


MQUAN artworks


A: Yeah, it’s not so bad!

M: I really do! I like that it’s spread out, the sprawl, and has a little bit of a war-torn aesthetic; it has this combination of a lot of things, all these very differing elements.  


A: Totally, that’s why I love L.A.- There’s something for everyone. There are so many different scenes, so many different cultures, and all of it is overlaid on top of each other.

M: Right, and that’s what I’m thinking about with the symbol of the web, it’s all interconnected. New York used to be like that, but it’s feeling less so; it’s more homogenized, there’s less room for diversity.


A: There’s definitely a lot of room in L.A.! Well the installation looks amazing; I love having this giant marigold sun on the wall. Thanks so much Michele!.

MQuan art installation


MQuan // California Dreaming

Works on view June 10th – July 31st

ESQUELETO los angeles

1298 W. Sunset Blvd 90026 (213)947-3508

10% of sales of this work will benefit L.A. Family Housing, an organization that connects both the chronically homeless and the temporarily/recently homeless to permanent housing and helps them achieve long-term housing stability through a full continuum of services. Thank you. Let's try to help everyone have their California Dream.
Back to blog