This past weekend I headed to Houston to do more studio tours. This is only my 2nd time going to the Artcrawl, but I really enjoyed it last year, so my friend and I decided to head north. There are almost 200 artists participating, but this event is very different from the Austin studio tours. The biggest difference is that the Artcrawl only takes place in one day, where as the Austin tours are over two weekends. Last year I was a little disappointed in having such a short time to explore so many artists and spaces, but this year I was much more prepared. The fact that all of these artists are all in only about nine spaces really helped, other studio tours are much more spread out with less artists in more locations. In Houston, there seems to be a preference for renting studio spaces in large warehouses, or maybe that is just what is primarily available. While it is always great to work around or be associated with other artists, renting a studio with so many other people usually means there is a lot more bad art than good. But I will continue to look for artists that I want to work with, even though most of the time it does mean sifting through a lot of other art I’m not interested in. That’s ok. I try to prepare as much as I can by going through the artist list first. I still need to see what people are working on, what materials are used, topics being discuss, and how the work is presented. I always have a lot to learn from other artists. Meeting with another friend in Houston, the three of us begin the Artcrawl at Mother Dog Studios, a huge warehouse comprised of easily over fifty artists. Immediately walking in, there is a huge wall filled with the work of Kelly Alison. She is an artist I had previously worked with in Unconscious Desires, an exhibit I curated in 2009. Her colorful depictions of birds are engaging. The works exhibited here are all oil on paper, each measuring 28″ x 22″. There is always so much going on in her imagery, it’s hard not to get pulled in. These pieces are part of a series Tweet, 2011, in which Alison completed a piece every day for 365 days. On display she has 24 out of the 365 pieces. Based on current world events, she presents serious topics in her distinct style, discussing everything from the Japanese nuclear meltdown, local homelessness, to the economy. The work was then tweeted, resulting in this body of work being recognized and published in various sources. A couple have already sold today, which is always great during studio tours. However, she is not here. Since I have already gone through the artist list, I know she will be at her studio at Box 13. It is great to be able to view artists’ work through several different series, especially when it continues to evolve into new concepts. Walking into the studio of Katie Wynne, it is filled with assemblage type sculptures. Random items put together, initially, I’m not sure what to make of them. Then I see this beautiful piece of satin on the ground. It is slowly moving, very sensually, into itself. It is so simple, composed of two items, the satin and a motor in the middle creating the movement. She has a fantastic video of Untitled (Satin) on her website. I also find a massager with knitted covers over the moving parts. Again, creating a mesmerizing movement that draws me in. Both of these pieces are composed of a tactile element using a specific type of material and movement. Meeting Wynne, I discover these more sensual pieces are relatively new, compared to her other works. I discuss Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH) with her, these two particular pieces would fit well in the rooms of the Fox Motel. She seems interested and I get her business card. I would love to have her in the show. This is the second year in a row I have been to the studio of John Runnels and he is not there. His vulgar work using the word fuck in various media is very amusing. Creating these works with materials such as dictionaries, letterman jacket letters, money, and other assorted items, I like the variation in media used. He has another series of work on display as well, vintage looking nude photos that are displayed in oven doors. I prefer the Fuck Series much more. Literal and in your face, I think that is what I enjoy about these pieces. I would really like to talk to him about SMIH, I knew that as soon as I saw his work last year. Apparently, he is part of the duo that started the Houston Artcrawl. I’m sure he must be very busy. Unfortunately, I can find no business cards either. Well, I know where to find him. Clint Stone is another elusive artist I have yet to meet. His landscapes have this moody atmosphere that attract me, revealing another reality, a more emotive view of what is there. Finding artists that create something deeper than what is on the surface is always the goal. When I am trying to create a show, my focus is to present art that is not homogeneous. Maybe I am specifically taking on this challenge by curating shows that have strong connotations already associated with them. Currently, the group exhibitions I have been trying to put together include landscape, portraiture, and women and fabric. Those are very traditional topics that I hope to change expectations of. Ana Fernandez is another artist I would love to include in the landscape exhibit. I have written about her large scale oil paintings of homes reflecting the culture of San Antonio, when she exhibited in Austin, at Women and Their Work and also when she gave a lecture of her work in San Antonio, at the McNay Art Museum. The photography of Ken Frederick also catches my attention. His portraits of mannequins are done in a way that gives these lifeless bodies a persona. Staring at the pieces, I feel like it is a portrait of an actual person. Unfortunately, it is a little difficult to get a good photo, the frames are highly reflective. But I think even in this photo there is a sense of emotion. I get to speak with the artist for a little bit about this, discussing how much life I get from these images. This definitely works into my theme of untraditional portraiture. Finding artists with a unique perspective on such a traditional style with a rich history is going to take a while, but will be worth the effort. Box 13 is a gallery that also houses studios. I’ve never made it out here before, so I’m glad I was able to check it out. This is where Kelly Alison has her studio. It is great to talk to her. She shows me her current work, says she would love to show in San Antonio and would be happy to work with me again. That is always the highest compliment – when someone will return to work with you. She is an accomplished artist, exhibiting as far as in China and Peru, as well as extensively in Houston, including two permanent public art pieces. Unfortunately, I am not working specifically on anything that her work would fit into, but I am always coming up with new shows, so I make sure I have her updated contact information. Alison was in the first show I ever worked on as curator with out of town artists. It would be great to work with her again. Maybe I can work on getting her a solo show in San Antonio. Another artist I meet at Box 13 is Elaine Bradford. Her studio is brimming with transformed taxidermied animals that vary in size from birds and ducks to sheep. Bradford gives them new perspective, with a crocheted skin around the figures, creating a colorful outer layer. Completely concealing the original figure, the only revealed parts are the eyes of the animal. Bradford even constructs her own species of animals, complete with their own legends. There is a great description of these on her website, from her exhibit The Museum of Unnatural History. This includes a two headed sheep and another species that fuse their tales in a mating ritual when they have found their partner with the same pattern. While presenting those animals in a traditional setting of taxidermy, as you can see in this photo, other animals are exhibited in new and unusual ways, continuing to surprise in the display, as well as what constitutes as an “animal”, as she merges natural elements with the figures. Women and fabric? Maybe another artist that pushes the boundaries and expectations of a traditional medium that I could work with in the future. I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised with the variation of media I found being presented in this Artcrawl. While I found traditional media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography being used, that was the extend of what was predictable. Their concepts pushed the media and what it means. Assemblage and crochet were additional methods I saw used to convey their ideas in interesting and engaging ways. This was a great studio tour. If I can find one artist to work with, I consider that a successful studio tour. But I may have found quite a number of different artists for several different projects. These are the things I get really excited about.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from my trip. The last few months have been a whirlwind but that has now become a calm lull. For the first time in a while, my immediate projects and concerns were completed. There will always be my long-term art projects to work on, but for now, there is no immediacy, no impending due date hanging over my head. Also swirling in my head was all the new information I had to process from the trip. There was so much art, so many experiences, what do I do with it all now? Not to mention I didn’t really have much work lined up. I needed a few days before I could even begin to think, it was too much. It turned out, I needed two full weeks of decompressing to bring me back to my normal, take charge personality.
After I reconnected, I am able to see more clearly and not feel so stressed when I look. Since I don’t have a stable employer, this is all my initiative, and I get to choose what direction I head. While I am certainly capable of this and is how I normally run my career, this is also why I couldn’t necessarily jump right back in. It takes a lot of energy, organization, and networking to work with lots of artists, different galleries, and find work for myself.
The first major project I decided to focus on was Invisible Gallery. During these last two weeks, I got a not so happy call from my partner about our studio and gallery space that we were getting ready to move into – she lost the space. It was a fantastic three bedroom apartment that was the entire first floor of a two-story house in Tobin Hills. She had been living there and was ready to move on, but still loved the space for a studio and I entirely agreed. I was to have control of the large living room for a gallery space. When she originally called with the bad news, all I could really say was ok. I was stressed, broke, and in a weird, unfocused place. I wasn’t in a position to take charge at that moment. However, once the fog cleared, I realized it was completely salvageable. But I can’t dwell on that now, I have to spend my time looking for a new space, not lamenting the lost one.
But Invisible Gallery has never been a physical space to date. It has been my art representation company. Although, in the beginning, I did have a space for a few months. Taking advantage of a vacant house close to where I live, I decided to squat, not letting it go to waste. For six months I had a rent fee studio space that I shared with Linda Arredondo. Unfortunately I was not able to keep that space and I had always agreed with myself that I would willingly move out, when eviction time came.
While I have dreams of running my own gallery space, I still sell art now. I decided I needed to contact the artists I am working with and get things started there. I am primarily concerned with trying to sell work from their existing inventory, not getting a new body of work at this time.
Linda Arredondo is how and why Invisible Gallery began. Her work has always been widely admired and respected. She uses a wide array of media and is very experimental with techniques, making her work intriguing and original. However, Arredondo is a typical artist, more concerned with working in the studio than spending her time meeting people to sell her art. While I highly respect her drive, she was being overlooked simply because her work was not getting out there. I decided I had to do something about that, her work is so amazing. It all began with a facebook post. I simply put I had three pieces from Arredondo for sale. With no images, prices, or descriptions, I sold two pieces within an hour. The realization that I have been building a network of people that will listen for a moment is invaluable. They are interested in art. Arredondo and I have worked together on a few projects, the biggest by far was as co-curator for Seven Minutes in Heaven. I love promoting Arredondo’s work because it is informed and interesting at the same time. We often joke about managing each others careers. She is always giving me fantastic advice on my career, and I work with her on hers. Arredondo received a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2008, as well as a Master’s of Fine Art from Yale in 2010, and continues to exhibit her work.
Artist number two was John Cody Williams. We had previously discussed my selling his work, but I had never received any images, a key component needed for sales. He often works on mylar or paper, creating delicate, yet often taboo imagery. When I get to talk with him, he is still interested in my representation. Things are going good so far. I have worked with Williams several times before. We have both been in at least one group show together at JusticeWorks. He has also been an artist in two shows I have curated, Experimenting Sound, 2009 and Seven Minutes in Heaven, 2012. Williams work is dreamy and poetic as he visually draws us into often very private moments, sometimes awkward and uncomfortable, yet inviting you to stay at the same time. His beautifully detailed drawings often take the viewer into a place where everything else is forgotten and are surrounded in Williams’ world, a place where the landscape is ever changing. Williams attended the University of Houston, receiving a degree in Studio Art in 2008, exhibiting his work and having several article about his work published.
Vanessa A. Garcia is another artist that I am now representing. She had approached me several months ago about representation. She previously had trouble dealing with a local organization that had her work and needed some help. Living in Boerne, tx, which is about 30 minutes outside of San Antonio, it can be difficult for her to always come into town for shows and to meet people. Unfettered by color, all the nuances in her work are the primary focus. Using canvas and muslin, the pieces transform into delicate objects revealing vulnerability and femininity. The daughter of a tailor and seamstress, her work incorporates fabrics with strong elements of sewing. Garcia received her Bachelor’s of Fine Art from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2007, and has been exhibiting her work since.
Another artist I am now working with is Barbara Justice. Her architectural photography is often haunting. She takes an inanimate structure, such as a building, and captures the essence, often a feeling of desolation. The loneliness comes through in each image, a single captured moment, finding once “alive” locations, that are now seemingly hidden and forgotten. Justice’s photography is quiet yet powerful, something I respect about her work. I have a long standing relationship with Justice, and have always respected her tenacity, starting JusticeWorks Gallery as a student and running it successfully for almost five years, only closing her doors to make a move to New Mexico, wanting a new start. I am excited to see her new body of work with all the fresh inspiration. In 2009, Justice completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Photography from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has had her work published in Photographers Forum and continues to work commercially.
The fifth and final artist I am representing is Adriana Barrios. As a print maker, Barrios is concerned with techniques and details. While smaller in scale, her work is thoughtful and precise. She had previously discussed with me about representing her work. I liked her business approach, asking me what I could do for her. As the other half of JusticeWorks, she also made the move to New Mexico, and was still interested in showing and selling her work in San Antonio also. However, nothing had ever been solidified, so I took the initiative to contact her, asking if she wanted to be the final artist I represent. Confirming we are now working together, I am very satisfied with the Invisible Gallery group that has been established. Barrios completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Printmaking from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2009, continuing her studies in Florence, Italy.
I personally find the work of these five artists compelling and intelligent. Building relationships with all five of them since college, I respect their work and understand how dedicated they are to their own ideas. The diversity of the artists is also something that interests me about this group. As a curator, I love walking into a show with an idea expressed in various media. That is a primary goal I focus on when putting together a group of artists.
Five artists is all I can really handle at this time. With the exception of my initial approach to Linda Arredondo, the other artists all sought me out for representation. I appreciate that they want to work with me and respect what I am trying to accomplish. This is an endeavor I have been slowly working on now for a couple of years that has continued momentum. It is also something I never had particularly envisioned myself doing. Running a gallery, yes. Representing artists with no physical space, well, that never even crossed my mind. But being self employed, I have learned to search for opportunities wherever they may be. I suppose creating my own opportunities. Thinking outside the box has lead me down a very interesting journey. Once you can accept there are constant unknown factors, it is actually exciting to challenge yourself with new ideas. That is why I love being an artist.
So now my focus is to get imagery and info from all of the artists. I am trying to be active on the Invisible Gallery facebook page again.
I am also about to begin creating a website. No, I have never created a website before. But I have gotten a lot of great advice and info from people that have. I will never let the fact that I have never done something before stop me from trying. Will I see any type of immediate payment for my effort? No. However that doesn’t change how this new endeavor is very exciting for me. I am hopeful it will present new opportunities for me. Most importantly, for myself, I couldn’t be happier doing what I am working on or that I am working with some fantastic artists. That’s the bottom line for me.