From Texas

I am 28 years old woman from the great state of TEXAS! I grew up in San Antonio and love Contemporary Art. In March, very year as I can remember, there would be this art festival which my family would attend buying various creations from the local artists. I instantly fell in love with the event and the art. Now that I am in Michigan trying to complete my MFA (Masters of Fine Art) degree (Michigan University) I don’t get to attend the festival. I was lucky enough to find this domain some years back (which I think CAM owned at one point) and kept it. Now I can blog about my passions, C.A.M., Texas, art, kittens, bidding at penny auctions (which I love) and anything else I think about. I don’t expect anyone to read this but if they do, then hopefully they will enjoy it as much as I have creating it. I will add more about myself later as it matter but right now it doesn’t.

PS. One other thing, as much as I love contemporary art, some of the stuff by Contemporary Artist SUCKS!!!! I think these so called artist are not talented and do this because they are either off their rocker or they have the need for attention. IF your going to be an artist, make it original, creative and DESIRED. An Art Gallery with shit on the walls is not ART, it’s SHIT!

NOTE to ARTISTS: Create ART but with respect to yourself and to others! Gold Plated Shit is still shit even if you want to argue its art.

The Elusive Hills Snyder

THE ELUSIVE HILLS SNYDER
By Anjali Gupta
07/24/2003

He whose work speaks in a forked tongue exhibits his ‘Son of Samson’ exhibit at the Cactus Bra Arts writers are often faced with the responsibility of introducing a complex character and contextualizing his or her work in 500 words or less. (I just wasted 24.) Accordingly, many engage in a modern form of procrastination – aimless Internet searches – hoping that a random link will somehow jar them into the mind frame to complete the task at hand. A “who is” search for the name Hills Snyder results in the following chowchow information:

Hills Snyder is a Brooklynite set up by his crime partner Manny Breen.

Hills Snyder is an artist and lecturer from Lubbock, Texas.

Hills Snyder is known for subtle architectural interventions and hybrid objects.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

The elusive Hills Snyder is, in fact, a Lubbock-born artist and writer. He is also the curator of Sala Diaz and a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio – a fixture in the South Texas contemporary art community. There is a consistent, crookedly funny sensibility to Snyder’s work, in which he repeatedly exhibits a vast knowledge of (and yet, a rather well-developed disdain for) established convention. His new installation, “Son of Samson,” is currently on view at the Cactus Bra in the Blue Star Arts Complex.

Snyder’s work speaks in a forked tongue – a code in which arcane references collide and hilariously embrangle themselves with elements of popular culture. The installation incorporates a wide cast of such telltale objects: a fake fur crucifix, elaborate but diminutive dioramas, an ornate stool surrounded by snippets of human hair (Snyder’s own, from an opening night haircut/performance), slogans in vinyl lettering, multiple copies of Jerzy Kozinski’s Being There conspicuously topped with a Nabokov cherry, and an altered American flag.

The room itself initially reads like a haphazard philosophical crime scene, but Snyder playfully fuses the cautionary biblical tale of Samson and Delilah with that of the infamous Son of Sam – the pet name given to serial killer David Berkowitz, reportedly by the myriad voices in his head. This unholy merger further embitters the tale of Samson and strategically elevates that of the Son of Sam by placing them on a level metaphysical playing field, suspiciously hinting at a hazy separation between paranoid delusion and so-called religious ecstasy. Is Snyder serious about this quirky supposition? Certainly not. But honestly, if you are going to actually pay attention to the little voices in your head, does it really matter if they hail from the Lord above or the neighbor’s Labrador retriever? •

Better Living Through Art

BETTER LIVING THROUGH ART
By Anjali Gupta
07/24/2003

Skateboards

A skateboard upholstered with vinyl and studs adorns the coffee table in the living space at the Bower. The skateboards, by local artist Ethyl Shipton, grace several areas at the space. Photo by Mark Greenberg

The Bower takes the living room gallery tradition to a new level of alternative professionalism.

For the Bower’s co-director Joey Fauerso, a studio MFA program is like being briefly but willingly stranded on a deserted island. Graduate art students are cloistered in a creative incubator, an alternate reality in which visiting artists, curators, and professors are constantly coming to their studio and offering heartfelt advice, guidance, and moral support. But this emotional and creative safety net is fleeting: One day, reality unceremoniously yanks it out from under you.

“When you are in graduate school, what they don’t tell you is that you are basically paying to be able to feel important,” says Fauerso. “It’s a construct – an island where people are handing you Popsicle sticks and telling you, ‘This is really valuable. This is money.’ Then when you leave the island and return to the mainland – the real world – all you have is great expectations and a duffel bag full of friggin’ Popsicle sticks. Our reaction to that has been to pinpoint other people who are carting around huge bags full of Popsicle sticks and saying, ‘Hey, do you want to trade?'”

The Bower’s new home is a living/gallery space, whose curved windows overlook both the Pig Stand and the Planet of the Tapes. A second story outpost on South St. Mary’s Street, it is comfortably lodged between neighborhood tradition and youthful innovation. The gallery’s three co-directors – artists Fauerso, Leslee Fraser, and Michael Velliquette – met as students in the MFA program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating, the trio serendipitously found their way to Texas. For Fauerso, moving to San Antonio was simply a return to her childhood home. Fraser’s husband, a geneticist and ecologist, found work at Southwest Texas State in San Marcos, sparking their joint relocation. Velliquette’s route was a convoluted, Gilligan’s Island scenario familiar to many. Recently, a growing number of artists that happen upon San Antonio’s surprisingly cozy art scene are deciding on a whim to stay indefinitely. The Bower was born soon after, in the living room of Fauerso and Velliquette’s first home on South Alamo in April 2002.

In Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco, the casual, living room gallery is a staple, a natural offshoot of ’60s style be-ins and ’70s Fluxus happenings that combined art world know-how with a functional, real-world aesthetic. The sale of the original Bower location sparked a move from the quaint Victorian on South Alamo to a stark, recently renovated industrial space at 1114 South St. Mary’s. It is a move that takes the living room gallery tradition to a new level of alternative professionalism. The new Bower occupies the second story of a renovation project spearheaded by King William-based real estate developer Steve Endo, and well-known local architect Jim Poteet. Fauerso and Velliquette managed to quickly finagle a sweet deal for a live-in/work space soon after the renovation project started. The result is a spacious, contemporary flat with a small, well-lit gallery space at its far end complete with separate staircase and entrance. This setup allows the Bower team to comfortably control the traffic through their living quarters – especially on First Fridays when things can get out of hand.

The Bower nurtures an aesthetic that appeals to a growing population of well-educated, yet professionally disenfranchised art makers, armed with the gift of the gab, impressive portfolios, and veritable truckloads of Popsicle sticks. “The old model of the artist savant is out. There are just too many artists around for that model to work anymore. Art is no longer a precious commodity,” Fauerso explains. “At the ‘Stray Show’ in Chicago, we realized that there are so many projects out there that are very similar to ours. There is a scary kind of consistency going on right now. A nice way to put it would be ‘harmony,’ and a negative way to put it would be ‘uniformity.’ We started thinking, why is this going on? What is the catalyst for this trend? Not that it is a new thing, but spaces like the Bower do seem to be on the rise. I think it is partially because there has been an explosion of young artists going through MFA programs on a national scale, basically creating this industry of the MFA. Because of this, art has become very academic. It’s not just about making work anymore – you have to be able to talk about your work, place it in a historical context – all the methods are built into the MFA equation.”

But once grad school is over, the feedback is gone. Founding a space like the Bower and creating a nurturing environment is one sure way of keeping that comforting dialogue alive.

In addition to their Bower-related duties, the three artists continue to pursue their individual careers. Fauerso’s paintings were included in the prestigious Come Forward: Emerging Art in Texas at the Dallas Museum of Art last spring. More recently, she featured in shows at the REM Gallery at Finesilver, and the “Blue Star 18” CAM group show. Velliquette is currently the assistant director of the Finesilver/FYI Gallery. His medium is video, and a recent studio visit landed him an ArtPace residency. He is also a regular contributor to Glasstire, an edgy online art magazine based in Houston. San Marcos-based Fraser, an installation artist, considers herself the least overtly career driven of the trio. “I don’t consider the Bower to be part of some grand personal design. It’s more a manifestation of a selfish need to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

Unlike other academically bent, artist-run spaces in San Antonio, like the Cactus Bra, Three Walls, Sala Diaz, the Bower exclusively showcases the work of artists from abroad, forging interstate connections through people with similar spaces and graduate school contacts. Thanks to the current, oversaturated national art scene, there is no shortage of young artists willing to eat the dual costs of travel and installation for the sole gratification of showing in a great space in a new town – even a non-commercial space like the Bower.

Velliquette, the more reserved of the two live-in directors, characterizes the gallery’s non-commercial venture as a philosophy, not a reactionary bent. “As much as you want to have success as an artist, there is always a scholastic undercurrent that commercial spaces are somehow corrupt or insincere. Joey, Leslee, and I had long discussions before we opened about honing in on where we placed ourselves within the art world and what we wanted to be as a space. We aren’t coming from a reactionary standpoint. The impetus for the whole project was not that we are starting from a disgruntled vantage point. That was very much not the feeling. The consensus was that we were more interested in the potential experience of living with the work and inviting artists into our home rather than having some totally commercial or decidedly anti-commercial space.”

The underlying message here is a simple one: smarter not bigger – a tenet articulated by a grad school professor back in Wisconsin, who also ran a successful alternative gallery space. The Bower team has taken this credo to heart, keeping it central to their curatorial mission, and has cultivated a knack for selecting fresh, whimsical work that is friendly to general audiences and the art world.

Thriving Art Community Putting Alamo City On The Map

Thriving Art Community Putting Alamo City On The Map
San Antonio Express – News
6-3-2002

By Dan R. Goddard

San Antonio artists must be doing something right.
Chris Sauter’s ‘furniture’ is part of ’10 x 3: Ten Contemporary San Antonio Artists’ at the San Antonio Museum of Art.William Luther/Express-News Contemporary Art Month exhibits include ‘B’bleb’ by Sharon Engelstein at ArtPace.Courtesy ArtPace

More coverage· CAM themes are all-American· Hints of violence threaded in today’s art· CAM highlights· ‘Art in the ‘Hood’ back again AmericanStyle magazine readers recently voted the city as one of the country’s Top 25 arts destinations, cited for its ‘enormous diversity.’ UTSA’s Fran Colpitt wrote a lengthy article in the February issue of the venerable Art in America magazine extolling the city’s art scene, especially Contemporary Art Month, which has grown into the state’s largest celebration of contemporary art.

This year, the Contemporary Art Month calendar lists nearly 75 exhibits and events at about 60 different locations, including all of the city’s museums, galleries, nonprofits and artist-run spaces. Along with getting shows in Houston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, local artists talk about their exhibits in London, Munich and Amsterdam. But many San Antonio artists still remember a time when the city barely had a handful of contemporary galleries and the museums acted like the only 20th-century art that mattered came from New York or Paris. That began to change with the formation of the Blue Star Art Space 18 years ago, when local artists banded together to form their own artist-run institution after the San Antonio Museum of Art canceled a planned exhibit of local artists and fired its contemporary curator.

Today, artist/administrators head both the Blue Star and the Museum of Art. Bill FitzGibbons, known for his large-scale public art, recently was named as the new director of the Blue Star. The Museum of Art has George Neubert, a sculptor, who serves as both director and curator of contemporary art. ArtPace, founded by Linda Pace, an artist in her own right, and headed by Kathryn Kanjo, has brought national and international attention to San Antonio. Even the McNay Art Museum has hired a curator of art since 1945, MaLin Wilson-Powell. None of these directors or curators was here 18 years ago. But the art battles of yesteryear have come full circle in 2002.

The Blue Star and the Museum of Art, working in conjunction with ArtPace, have joined together to present ’10 x 3: Ten Contemporary San Antonio Artists.’ Curated by Kanjo, the show features artists who have shown at the Blue Star, including Jesse Amado, Andréa Caillouet and Riley Robinson. ‘There’s a whole new ecological climate for art in San Antonio,’ Neubert said. ‘The Museum of Art has a broad mission of presenting art from all over the world and many different historical periods. But that mission includes the art of our own time, which for me is often the most challenging kind of art. We want to show that we are extremely interested in the art being made by local artists.’ Kanjo said there’s a new synergy among the city’s arts institutions and artists. ’10 x 3′ is a symbol of the institutions’ newfound willingness to work together, share resources and spotlight local contemporary artists. ‘ArtPace’s success for seven years in bringing together local, national and international artists shows the strength of the San Antonio art scene,’ Kanjo said. ‘Not many second tier cities have the critical dialogue to make something like ArtPace possible. We have to credit UTSA for its masters of fine arts program, turning out quality graduates and providing artists with a place to work. ‘This is certainly a different time for artists in San Antonio than it was 18 years ago. I don’t see that much overlap among the institutions and there’s enough art and energy here for us all to do good programs and exhibits.’ ArtPace is opening a new exhibit on July 11 by resident artists Sharon Engelstein of Houston, Arthur Jafa of New York and Ann-Sofi Sidén of Stockholm, Sweden. California artist Thomas Scheibitz is showing new paintings in the Hudson (Show)Room.The Blue Star is celebrating its history with an exhibit featuring artwork by about 40 of its past and present board members.

‘I think this is a pretty active time to be an artist in San Antonio,’ FitzGibbons said. ‘I feel like we’re on the threshold of a new era. This isn’t an apex; I think things are only going to get better. When I got here 14 years ago from Alaska, there was only a small art scene, but I think it’s evolved into an art community that can compare with any in the state. ‘I feel like this show is the Blue Star family. It’s a kind of time capsule. We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of support for this show. I think people are proud of our history. We’ve grown from a grassroots alternative art center into an important and well-known contemporary art center for San Antonio.’ Maria Elena Botello Mogas has organized the show, which includes artists such as Rolando Briseño, Jim Broderick, Stephen Daly, Alex de Leon, Jane Dunnewold, Mark Hogensen, Gail Kline, Ken Little, Diane Mazur, Steve Reynolds, Kent Rush, F.L. ‘Doc’ Spellmon, Robert Tiemann, Vincent Valdez and Kathy Vargas. ‘All of the artists are submitting new work,’ Mogas said. ‘I was around 18 years ago, serving as a docent at the Museum of Art, but I didn’t really know the artists involved in the Blue Star until I married my husband (Richard Mogas). It’s been a great education to research how the Blue Star came together and the exhibit will feature panels detailing that history.’ Mogas said she interviewed the four people primarily responsible for founding the Blue Star: Jeffrey Moore, the founding director; Lewis Tarver, a lawyer who has served on the board; Kent Rush, who teaches at UTSA; and Richard Thompson, now a dean at Alfred University in New York. For the first time during Contemporary Art Month, the McNay Art Museum is presenting three contemporary exhibits. Twenty-five paintings by Hans Hofmann, a seminal figure in the development of abstract expressionism, are now on view through Sept. 15. Ray Smith, a South Texas artist who has achieved international renown, brings the events of Sept. 11 home with paintings based on his experiences from his studio, which is just eight blocks from ground zero. Merging images from journalism and his imagination, Smith has created a powerful body of work that bears testimony to the confusion and rage caused by the terrorist attack. ‘I’m thrilled to be presenting such a significant exhibit by such a well-known artist,’ curator Wilson-Powell said. ‘I invited him to do the show before 9-11, so we didn’t know that it would be such a timely exhibit. Ray has canceled some shows recently while he’s been working on these paintings, so we’ve very proud to have them at the McNay. ‘I think the Hans Hofmann show fits right in because there is a resurgence of interest in painting, and he’s such an important figure in the second half of the 20th century.’ In addition, curator Lyle Williams is putting together a ‘San Antonio Drawing’ exhibit that opens July 21.

‘I feel like San Antonio has developed a vibrant artists community and there is a high level of achievement here,’ Wilson-Powell said. ‘I think there is a definite feeling that we’re participating in the larger contemporary art world. It’s global, cosmopolitan and provocative. I think that describes a lot of the art being made in San Antonio now.’

dgoddard@express-news.net