Conversations With Our Environment: Anita Valencia & Justin Boyd
Time for another opening at the Southwest School of Art (SSA), which means time for another double duty day at the school. Working at two different positions in the school is a little odd but quintessential of my self employment, working about 9 hours divided up through out the day. I begin my day by opening the Gallery Shop on the Ursuline Campus from 10-2. The Gallery Shop will be closing very soon, by then end of the year. This will be my last time working half day due to an Exhibition Opening, and only about four more weeks till the closing date of December 29th. Having a couple of hours off in the day, I run errands, eat, and get ready to return. As Bartender for the openings, I am responsible for setting up the reception area and making sure I have everything I need, and then, of course, the break down of everything after the reception closes. The best part is getting to talk to everyone as they make their way around the exhibit. I discuss a possible curatorial opportunity with Meredith Dean that she recommended me for, as well as talk to several other people I haven’t seen in a while. As I answer the standard questions about what I am currently doing/working on, I realize I really do have a lot going on. My studio being the biggest and most immediate project, Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013 a close second.
Sun She Rise, Sun She Set, and You Ain’t Seen Texas Yet, work by Anita Valencia, is an incredible installation taking up the first, larger gallery space. Using common, discarded materials, she produced an entire environment re-purposing everyday items such as tin cans, bottle caps and wire hangers. Valencia brings these items to life as she turns them into objects in motion – including butterflies, tumbleweed, and a twister – and displays them in a way to welcome the viewer to meander through the new environment. Such an engaging exhibit is taking a serious issue and calling attention in a whimsical and playful manner. Upon further inspection, I notice butterflies bearing logos such as Pepsi or Tecate, discussing consumerism and consumption. The sheer number of butterflies alone represent a frightening number of discarded cans. As an artist myself reusing materials, I am interested in how an artist presents existing objects and whether it references it’s original use. I remember seeing Valencia’s exhibit at Cactus Bra a few years ago, which was much different. Still re-using common objects, those pieces were comprised of bottle caps on canvases. I much prefer this new environment as the language of her materials. Valencia just keeps getting better and better, I think understanding her materials more as she continues to create.
In the adjoining, much darker room is the work of Justin Boyd. Days and Days relates to Valencia by also discussing his surrounding environment, but in a much different way. Exhibiting his work in small, wall mounted boxes, each one contains a collage of found objects, expanding this definition to including sound recorded above and below the water, as well as video. The combined elements were all collected from the San Antonio River, making this piece about a specific environment. These polished boxes present an individual view of a more personal experience, records of his time spent on the river, by where Boyd lives. Having also previously exhibited a sound installation at Cactus Bra, Boyd’s sound piece there was of another environment. Presented much differently, as a large, rough, plywood painting of a broken tree, having to do with mining, I believe, it was quite a while ago. But he did create another sound piece dealing with the San Antonio River for the San Antonio Museum of Art, when they had an exhibit about water a few years ago. That was a large piece to partially walk around. Not presented as intimate collections, as in this current series. Since I work at SSA, I know the pieces are more complicated than the display allows the viewer to see. I will sometimes have the responsibility of turning them on in the morning when I occasionally open up the Gallery. I really enjoy that each box has to be turned on individually, slowing turning the room alive with sound as I make my way to each box.
While this work is very different from mine, I find it inspiring and thoughtful. Both artists are documenting what exists around them, with all the works constructed from objects, sounds, and imagery collected locally in San Antonio. These bodies of work interest me as individual points of views from within the same city. I suppose my work is yet one of many other perspectives, born and raised in San Antonio. My current work begins with the environment I am surrounded and influenced by, my installations discuss memories and experiences that I feel were a part of forming my identity, expanding into what we ultimately choose to let create our identities and influence our everyday lives. Using everyday objects such as bird cages, laptops, and pill bottles, I want to create discussions about the life we live and the life we are creating, directly referencing what takes place daily. I will continue to draw inspiration from what I surround myself with everyday.