Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
Posted by ben on 13 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: adventure day, architecture, ice
Posted by justin on 29 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: acquisitions, adventure day, art paparazzi, possibilities, public art, renegade performances, rock!, silliness
StoneHenge in San Antonio? When I stopped to take the photograph, the homeowner came to the screen door and told me he was a carpenter. He said, “if anybody needed any work done, to tell them to stop on by.” The address is 327 Lone Star, San Antonio, TX 78204. Feel free to check it out for yourself.
Posted by ben on 21 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, arts organizations, photography, responses/reviews
I just posted my take on the Ansen Seale installation mounted by the Land Heritage Institute over at Glasstire. LHI is positioning itself at the intersection of a number of different issues and movements, potentially functioning simultaneously as a park, an educational resource, an equestrian center, an advocacy group, a think tank and an art center. It should be interesting to watch how the whole thing plays out — the series of events that led it to where it is today has not exactly been predictable, and I doubt its future development will be either. In any case, I’m looking forward to LHI’s “art-sci symposium” The Nature of Place next month. With participants like Sandy Stone, Lucy Lippard, Erik Knutzen from the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Anjali Gupta from Art Lies, it should be interesting to say the least. We’ll keep you posted.
Posted by hillssnyder on 05 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi, music, opportunities, responses/reviews
6:39 am, September 5, 2009.
The In and Outlaws CD release party, Casbeers at The Church, San Antonio, TX.
“…a large vacant area.”
Not at all.
My favorite cow music this side of Jon Wayne.
Brad, the drummer, has a serious demeanor to say the least. Not that different than the visage of Charlie Manson, who appeared on TV a few hours earlier in the bar downstairs where I was hanging out with the chilled out blues of Los Mescaleros and intermittently watching the Cowboys play the Vikings in the last pre-season game of the year. It’s a contest in which a few players who may still have the chance of gaining a roster spot are said to be “on the bubble.” Choice quote, from one of the play by play guys, in reference to Patrick Watkins, who’s putting out an extraordinary performance: “He’s like Glinda The Good Witch. That’s how far inside the bubble he is.” Odie, of the Mescaleros, sitting down behind his stand up bass, has a tambourine strapped head side down to his boot. This makes me smile. I chill a little further in.
Later on, I join the standing room only congregation gathered for The In and Outlaws. The shadow of Lloyd’s bass head on a fluted column, which stands behind him, truncated, too white, supporting nothing. Burton, on pedal steel, wearing an Eleven Hundred Springs gimme cap with a high foam front. Ragged mic hole in Brad’s kick drum. Long red rag hanging from Matthew’s left pocket, has a Fifties Full Service look. Frayed hems of Gordon’s jeans splay around his too flat used car salesman shoes. These are the details that keep me alive between songs.
Downstairs, fetching beers, I hear Mike say, “In Utah they think 88 degrees is hot.” Justin says, “In Berlin they think 87 is.”
Guys, thanks for playing the unicorn number for the encore. Matthew, I love the middle school lead you do on this song. Brad, rumor has it you don’t care too much for playing it, but I like it. You write most of the material — please come up with one titled Guernsey Girl. I know Gordon can sing it.
(photos by Justin Parr)
Posted by ben on 18 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art + bikes, arts organizations, performance art, public art, renegade performances
The LA Times has a story up about the Los Angeles Urban Rangers, a group of “geographers, environmental and art historians, artists, curators, architects, and others” who dress up like park rangers and teach people how to enjoy public urban space responsibly. They lead urban safaris, such as a “guided hike of Hollywood Boulevard that deconstructed the famous street as if it were a natural park.” They teach people how to (legally) enjoy Malibu beach fronts where the homeowners have often (illegally) posted “Private Beach” signs.
This is what performance art should be: seductively entertaining while challenging implicit assumptions about what constitutes public space and how it should be used. In their own way, the Final Friday bike rides (and Bike Gang Summits) in San Antonio encourage this kind of urban exploration, albeit with less explicitly pedagogical goals. Mark Jones and the rides’ other organizers lead bikers through obscure urban environments on the edges of downtown, descending on unlikely VFW halls and pocket parks. It’s a social sculpture if there ever was one.
Posted by ben on 13 Jul 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi
2009 CAM weekend #2:
Posted by aaron on 17 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi, celebrity sightings, music, party photos, photography, rock!, video/film
No audio. Play simultaneously for best effect.
Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman.
Brooklyn’s Stars Like Fleas (featuring SA-town homeboy Ryan Sawyer on drums and lead beard) play a PopRally event at MOMA on June 8, 2009 – shot and edited by Austin Rhodes.
[hattips to albert flores & cosmo inserra for the first and ryan sawyer for the second.]
Posted by ben on 13 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art + bikes, art paparazzi, design
As I was walking my bike down the road to get a flat fixed, Daniel Saldaña stopped to offer me a ride to the shop in his pickup. I was doubly lucky: Saldaña had his new art tricycle in the truck and let me snap a few shots before delivering it. (See this post for more on Saldaña’s art bikes).
Posted by justin on 31 May 2009 | Tagged as: acquisitions, adventure day, announcements, art + bikes, art paparazzi, borders, opportunities, possibilities
*update (june 08, 09) I ran into Daniel again and he is now claiming that the bikes will be temporarily displayed throughout the city, and locked in place. He will be showing them soon as an entire group.
Be on the lookout, local artist Daniel Saldana, known most prominently in our community for his unfathomably plated metal objects, has taken to turning his excess metal into art bicycles, and leaving them about town. I’ve seen them left up at SAMA, and Blue Star now, both times without a camera on my person. I caught him at Red Dot with his newest creation, this time, chained to the pole outside. Previous bikes were left to be picked up by lucky takers, and ostensibly this new one, I was told was “not finished,” and would be given a similar fate after completion. If you have other images of these art bikes in their native habitat, give em up, via our contact form.
Posted by justin on 22 May 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi, performance art, possibilities
Nate Cassie gives Jonathan Monk a haircut, prior to the opening of “Rew-Shay Hood Project Part II,” at Artpace.
(photo by Justin Parr)
Posted by justin on 16 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi, arts organizations, in yo face, party photos, performance art, possibilities, public art, rock!, silliness
Well, after a good deal of rain, some unexpected cold, and a little bit of worry, Luminaria 2009 turned out to be a really nice night in San Antonio. Aside from my experience with the overbearing police force (who wanted to tackle me for riding my bike down an empty LONG stretch of closed off road) I found this Luminaria to be much better organized and more satisfying to take part in. I carried my camera and photographed the projects I was able to come into personal contact with. Heres a selection of those photos, with my garbled commentary.
Laura Varela & Vaago Weiland collaborated on the Alamo this year. Vaago (from Mönchengladbach, Germany) said, in doing research on the Alamo, he kept coming across these photos with tents in the surrounding area. He was determined to surround the old Mission with 200 tents, however, upon closer inspection of the site was only able to squeeze in 54. Lauras video projection played alongside Vaagos sculpture, within the top of the Alamo.
Hyperbubble was the only real music I stood still and watched an entire set from. Not for lack of interesting options, but more in awe of the reaction of the crowd to their music. I heard more than several proclamations of “WHAT IS THIS?” and “THIS is the best band EVER!!” loudly from behind. I couldn’t have been happier.
My own piece (shamelessplug) was projected onto this old building(I was told it might have been called the Turner Magika Theatre?) facing out into the Hemisphere park, I showed the current version of my “Portrait of the Artist as a City,” a project I took up as a result of receiving a grant from the Artist Foundation. The video is made up of a constantly shifting set of over 9000 still photos, and encompasses more little parts of my life than I can begin to explain before losing your attention.
This year, the real showstopper for me was Ansen Seales 100 ft photograph of the San Antonio River. Contained inside the San Antonio Convention Center, It set the tone for the more conventional “walled,” section of the show. After talking to Ansen for a few minutes I was able to extract from him that this image was composed of 86,400 individual “slitscans,” made by his own homebuilt digital camera, and weighed in at a whopping 1.2 gigs for the file itself…and I thought trying to get my computer to juggle 9000 still photos at one time was tricky.
This fantastic ghost image of a dancer is local artist/instructor Rebecca Dietz. She was one of the roving performance artists, and a recent FL!GHT Gallery featured artist. I nearly missed her moving by me, and was glad I noticed who it was at the last minute.
John Mata, part of Leslie Raymonds New Media program at UTSA, built a cardboard room and filled it with books and media discussing…New Media.
Judith Cottrell & Gary Smith built this human like glowing form, and scared children for the duration of the night. I enjoyed watching.
Holly & Bryson Brooks decided it was best to be “Married with Paintings.” So they walked in at 6 on the dot, started working inside their makeshift studio(replete with audience the entire time), and by the time I rolled around with my camera, they were already at this point within each of their portraits of the other.
Back out on Alamo Street, Ethel Shipton had filled these two store front windows with her characteristic puffed objects, this time being birdhouses.
Kelly O’Connor was just a few windows down. My camera was having trouble not blowing out the detail in this one.
I stumbled upon this projection by Victor Pagona & his wife Sarah Susan, an artist I’ve heard of for years, but never met in San Antonio.
Sadly, I could only get this much of the smaller Leigh Anne Lester window displays without the detail of the sculptures being blown out by the harsh jewelry store lighting. These window displays will be available for all to see for the next month along Alamo Street.
I stumbled over this Michele Monseau projection right across the street from the Alamo, hidden on a side wall.
These patterns & lights can give you a general idea of what everything else looked like, that was not affected in some way by an individual artist or group of artists.
These two large scale Thomas Cummins Lightboxes, while difficult to do justice with a photograph, were mindblowingly detailed in person.
Another fine example of the general lighting scheme found that night. Its almost like that time I had to shoot photos at a certain laser light show..
Jenny Browne gave away 4 shopping cartloads and a truck bed full of books, for FREE, as her piece. It was awesome to see people swarming the truck and carts, trying to get at free books, while Jenny sat on the roof watching & laughing.
..and finally to end the weekend, Tom Otterness made an appearance with his newly unveiled(in our locale at least) public art piece, “Makin Hay’,” mentioned a few weeks back here at Emvergeoning. Some things I’m sorry to say I don’t have good photos of, the first being the EXCELLENT Contemporary Art Month installation by Randy Wallace in the basement of the old Beauty College building on Travis Street. I shot many photos of it, but none of them quite did it justice. I was also sad to miss crazy Mel Feldman and his cultural arts Kaleidoscope. Somehow 1000 artists all in one place on one night is just a LITTLE hard to keep track of.
Posted by ben on 11 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi, arts organizations, graffiti, responses/reviews, sound art
Justin and I made it up to the third Texas Biennial last weekend, and managed to catch everything except Buster Graybill’s giant catfish, which was buried in some kind of enormous boating competition. The big picture take-away is that the Texas Biennial is committing itself to a more unified curatorial vision than in previous years, and to that end brought in writer / curator Michael Duncan from LA to curate the two group and four solo shows. The group shows were, however, not very unified, and I’ve found it difficult to tease overarching themes out of the scattered media, aesthetics, and ideas represented. One theme that did emerge for me is that much of the work expresses a kind of personal mythology, and hews away from overtly political statements. We also saw a lot of the more “traditional” media on display: well-crafted paintings, drawings, and sculptures were everywhere, and few installations or “post-media” sculpture-collages to be found. By my count, there were five videos, one sound sculpture, and one PowerPoint presentation out of hundreds of works. I haven’t quite figured out if this springs from the tastes of Michael Duncan or is supposed to be a reflection of the state of Texas art (although one catalog essay hints at the former: “This is not your average Whitney Program/Cal Arts/Artpace project” says the curator in reference to Lee Baxter Davis’ solo show) [UPDATE: This brief interview with Michael Duncan explains his approach to curating the Texas Biennial].
Here’s the run-down, with photos by Justin Parr:
The group show at the Mexican American Cultural Center (run by Marfa Ballroom alum Simon Orta) was spacious and well-lit, with a lot of paintings, but also a nice sound sculpture by Justin Boyd outside the entrance:
This sound sculpture plays recordings from the nearby river and powerlines to represent the flows of energy around the building — the physical sculpture references the architecture of the MACC itself. We didn’t get any photos from the opening of the group show at Women and Their Work because it was insanely crowded (and, searching on Flickr for “texas biennial 2009″, I get a bunch of photos… from the MACC, so maybe this wasn’t just a problem for us). Check out this slideshow at Women and Their Work’s website for some pics of the art.
The solo shows certainly felt more focused, and for the most part fit together better as a group than the group shows did. I’ll start with Jayne Lawrence, San Antonio artist and co-director of the Cactus Bra gallery, who represented the east (?) south* with a beautiful exhibit at MASS Gallery:
This is a huntress, although if you look closely you’ll see a large phallus between her legs — although Lawrence refers to all these creatures in the feminine, they are transgendered. This show consists of three human-size sculptures and a number of smaller drawings playing with ideas of mutation, a sort of biological collage across genders and species. Hunting and sexuality play big roles in these pieces as well, generating some really striking sex-and-death imagery. Here we have a creature who has been bitten in half by her lover, praying-mantis style:
Lawrence combines textile, ceramic, plastic, papier mache, and other media in these highly textural and disorienting creatures. The drawings play with very similar organic themes, although some include architectural elements, hinting at a twisted Maker behind the scenes.
Lee Baxter Davis’ solo show at Pump Project consists of larger watercolors, embodying a mythology as dark as Lawrence’s, although of a somewhat less fantastical and more historicized nature:
Strange narratives slip through the viewer’s fingers in this dense, magical-realist universe. It isn’t clear to me whether Davis is fictionalizing historical vignettes like Walton Ford, or spinning fresh tales out of a broad cultural experience. In any case, these works carry the tragic weight of a civilazation cutting into the wilderness, and fighting to stake out a stable place in the midst of chaos.
Moving on down to Big Medium, we encounter some large paintings that don’t have as much of the mythological or fantastical feel of Lawrence’s or Davis’ shows, but do play with the sexuality, violence and moral ambiguities contained there:
Representing the south east*, Vance’s beautifully rendered paintings from photographs depict psycho-sexual lesbian encounters, which, as Duncan points out in the catalog, are fraught with ambiguity. Themes of violence and humiliation are played against expressions of pleasure in ways that resist moral judgment. Vance is opening up private spaces that feel pure in their honesty, more direct than Lawrence’s fantasies or Davis’ narrative mazes. These scenes are radically intimate, without the weight of history or the complications of the world to get in the way of the pure relation.
Finally we come to the West Texas show, Will Cannings at Okay Mountain. And here’s where the thematic development falls apart for me:
This is a steel sculpture inflated like plastic, or rather, over-inflated in this case, and burst along the inner seam. Personally, I couldn’t help thinking of Jeff Koons’ metal inflatable sculptures, although Michael Duncan was careful not mention those in the literature. It is largely a Pop affair, and it’s difficult to see how this show fits into the larger Biennial. The craftsmanship, though, is very tight, and Cannings put together a strong group that bridges the divide between Pop and Minimalism to some extent (one piece even directly references Brancusi):
This post is getting pretty long, and I’ve got some other obligations this evening, so I’m going to save the outdoor pieces for another post. But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with some nice graffiti we stumbled on when we took a wrong turn on Shady Lane:
* Corrected thanks to commenter Salvador. That’s what I get for trusting the catalog…
Posted by ben on 10 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, coverage, responses/reviews
I’ve spent the last two weekends in Austin for the No Idea Festival and then the Texas Biennial (I hope to have impressions from those up this week, so stay tuned). This weekend San Antonio takes the stage with with some massive events: LACMA’s Phantom Sightings (featuring San Antonio artists Alejandro Diaz and Cruz Ortiz) travels to the Alameda on Friday alongside Caras Vemos, Corazones No Sabemos, the same day SAMA opens a Ry Cooder-commissioned piece by Vincent Valdez and an installation by John Hernandez. Saturday brings the second annual Luminaria arts night, which seems to be more expansive and better-organized than the first.
For background on the well-received Phantom Sightings, see Christopher Knight’s review in the LA Times, and some photos on Flickr.
We’ll do our best to post reactions and reviews in a timely manner, but we’re getting blasted with art from every direction down here in South Texas…
Posted by justin on 02 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi, opportunities, public art, rumors
After going through my old emails last night, Ed Saavedra and I realized that one of the press releases that had somehow slipped through the cracks was for a 2 year San Antonio exhibition by Tom Otterness (known to me because of his hard-to-miss 14th St Subway installation in NYC.) “Makin‘ Hay” is down on the Southside in one of my favorite empty fields next to the San Antonio River/Mission Trail, and near Mission San Juan. The release states that the piece will be unveiled on March 15, 2009. I called up a few folks this morning and heard that he had already been in town and that it was close to, if not fully, installed. Here are a few photos of what I saw when I got down there:
Posted by justin on 26 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, announcements, art paparazzi, borders, photography
Last Friday night I was assigned a real doozy of an assignment for the San Antonio Current, Wrestling 4 Christ (..errr warriors 4 christ?) an event that sits in a church parking lot and claims to both spread the word of Jesus Christ, and offer free live wrestling to the community. Since that story and those images have yet to go to print, I’ll refrain from posting them here. While waiting for the event to begin, I noticed a tall skinny blond guy, looking a little bit out of place with the crowd, walking with a pad and pencil in hand. Not sure yet who was writing the wrestling story, I quickly scanned my internal archive of SACurrent writers who I’ve met or seen in person, and came up blank. After sitting a little to far away from all of the gathering crowd, I decided to make my way closer and maybe see what kind of christian wrestling gossip I could catch up on. I found a rock wall to lean on a hundred feet from the ring, turning my head, I noticed the writer who I had previously thought to be out of place. I asked him who he was writing for and he said something to the effect of, nobody, himself, a comedy book, etc.. He was from Britain(the Isle of Wight), and had just gotten to San Antonio the day previous. He mentioned that he had come to town just for the wrestling event, and I thought for a second he must be a real religious wrestling zealot. After continung our discussion, I decided there was no way he could really be that much of a kook, he seemed pretty level-headed really… what was the deal? Johnston walked up (the SACurrent writer for the story) and I soon lost track of my discussion with Adam. We all turned our attention to getting inside of the backstage trailer full of Christian wrestlers. Once inside, coated in the dank smell of sunday school portable turned middle school locker room, Johnston asked Adam specifically what the book he was writing was all about and if he had a publisher? In a quiet way Adam tells us he is the maker of “The Girl of My Dreams.com,” and had embarked on a worldwide hunt for a girl he woke up one morning and drew a picture of after seeing her in a zombie killing dream. He had received some sort of lead that his girl might be here, in San Antonio, at the Wrestling 4 Christ event. What a journey! Me and Johnston felt ridiculous elation at meeting such a one-off traveler. He was leaving in the morning, on a train to Washington. He was even wearing a neon green wrestling jumpsuit under his clothing, perhaps to flag her down? Finally, He mentioned to us the connection between his website, and “the NY Girl of my Dreams guy, who broke up with his dream girl after only 2 months..” and what he thought of that, “..Lame, wheres the story in that?”
I left Adam after watching most of the wrestling, my girlfriend wanted to get dinner, and I had the shots I needed. Wrestling, even the pseudo-safe Christian type makes me squirm to watch. I’m such a pacifist, I stand there watching, cringing in pain and thinking to myself, “isn’t somebody going to stop that guy?” Adam seemed to think I was going to miss out, and Johnston got some fabulous quotes out of the backroom sweaty guys for the upcoming story.. I don’t think I’ll ever understand what the draw is..but I hope it gets Adam one step closer to his Dream Girl.
Posted by justin on 17 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, art paparazzi, rock!
Posted by ben on 09 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, public art, r.i.p., sound art
Last week I was surprised to learn of the passing of Max Neuhaus, and was a bit dismayed at the lack of coverage. The Houston Chronicle seemed to be the only paper covering the death of this important artist. But this morning I felt a bit better as the New York Times is out with their piece, and it’s a nice overview of his career.
Here, I thought I’d recount my first experience with a Neuhaus installation. I had been in New Hampshire to conduct the marriage of a good friend from college. On the way up, I learned of the death of my friend Alberto Mijangos, whose gallery I was running, and who in many senses had introduced me to art (I had attended his wedding in the Rothko Chapel at the age of five). Now I was headed back to San Antonio, a bit exhausted, trying not to think too much about this looming sadness.
My flight out of Manchester was delayed for hours. By the time it finally left, I had missed my connection in Newark, and the airline said it wasn’t their fault, so no hotel room. I decided not to pay for a hotel, to either sleep in the airport, or get in touch with a friend in the city. The one friend in New York I was able to reach was packing for a trip the next day, and didn’t have time for a visit. She helped me figure out how to get into Times Square, where I had heard there was a Max Neuhaus installation. By the time I made it into Times Square, it was about 11:30, still busy, but not too chaotic. I walked across the pedestrian islands until I heard a low ringing rumble flow up from the grates. As I stood there, transfixed in this invisible oasis, watching people and taxis wash over Broadway, I felt as if I was being enveloped by another world, which was really just an idea about perception. I rocked back and forth, listening as the sounds rippled and creased and rubbed, an infinitesimal percussion. Eventually, I made my way back the airport, and found a place on the floor to rest.
Posted by justin on 08 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: acquisitions, adventure day, art paparazzi
Over the past 6 months I have been increasingly receiving more and more strange and unaccountable spam on my website for the FL!GHT Gallery, www.turnitoff.tv. It comes in from my contact form on the site, and goes straight into my inbox, disguised as a message from the FL!GHT site. After months of deleting the messages that seemingly pile up 10-15 at a time in one conversation thread, per day… I’ve started to take note of the first line in every one of them, seeing them as daily fortune cookies in my email. Here is what I have received in the last 12 hours.
The rest of the emails tend to be a uniform paragraph of html gibberish with links to old blogs, and odd products. It never seems very targeted to sell anything and the html, when viewed properly or interpreted, is really just a bunch of unusable tags..
Posted by justin on 11 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: acquisitions, adventure day, art paparazzi, graffiti
Posted by justin on 10 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, ice, party photos, silliness
Posted by justin on 03 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: adventure day, announcements, upcoming events
|Sat, Jan 10|
|7:00 pm||to||10:00 pm|
Posted by justin on 10 Dec 2008 | Tagged as: adventure day, announcements, upcoming events
|Sat, Dec 20|
|7:00 pm||to||11:00 pm|
San Antonio Artists, Musicians Collaborate for 3rd Annual “Christmoustache”
San Antonio, TX (December 20, 2008) – Looking for the right reason to celebrate the season? Look no further than San Antonio’s annual facial hair themed holiday event, the “Christmoustache.”
Each year, local artists, musicians and friends encourage each other to grow the wiliest, woolliest, and wackiest moustaches to celebrate the Holiday season.
This year’s Christmoustache party will be held at the Fl!ght gallery, 1906 S. Flores, from 7 until 11 pm on December 20th. KRTU DJ JJ Lopez will be spinning tunes and Demitasse (with members of Buttercup) will play holiday themed music.
Guests are encouraged to grow moustaches, but stick-on and fake moustaches will be available at the door for ladies and the facial-hair-challenged.
A suggested donation of $3 will benefit the San Antonio Community Garden Organization.
Posted by justin on 26 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: adventure day, architecture, art + bikes, art paparazzi, arts organizations
(Words by Gene Elder)
(Photos of Gutzon Borglum studio by Justin Parr)
(The following article is from CATCH-UP, a one issue art magazine that a group of San Antonio artists published in May of 1978.
I chose to write an article about Gutzon Borglum and his abandoned studio on the San Antonio River. It is an interesting history. Artists will find these facts important, as I did.
In 1978 we were protesting the lack of support for the arts. The abandoned studio of Gutzon Borglum where he created the model for Mt. Rushmore symbolized that lack of interest in the arts and the neglect of the creative community.)
IF ITS NOT THE ALAMO, then its just a studio
by Gene Elde_______________r
It has been my philosophy for some time now, that if you want to really enjoy an art exhibit, ignore the artist and the curator and go straight to the janitor. I have found that talking with the soul who picks up the trash after openings and daily sweeps the floors, empties ashtrays, polishes furniture and cleans the restrooms has the more interesting view of the arts. So with this in mind, I sat one Sunday on the steps of the Brackenridge Park Pumphouse and asked for wisdom from the Caretaker of the studio of Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum (The creator of Mount Rushmore.)
There has not been a caretaker here in 10 years… people have forgotten this artistic heritage … but then perhaps that is the responsibility of a good studio, to remember the things that were created here and not to tell everything it knows.
But this studio told me that many times Gutzon sat here in ecstasy; thinking about the monument that would lift the hearts of America long after he had gone … (an artist learns that nothing is ever really his, only his to leave behind.)
Some of the time Gutzon sat here depressed and disenchanted from all the delays … but he understood that too. An artist is a servant as well as a leader and sometimes he must be both alone.
Many thought he was a little crazy … then again… most did not see the world the way Gutzon did.
This fateful studio, a two-story stone building near the Brackenridge golf course, was originally constructed under the supervision of George Washington Brackenridge in the mid-1880s. It served as the second pumphouse for the San Antonio Waterworks Co. until 1915 when it was abandoned. The pumphouse stood at the end of a long power canal which carried water to power turbines connected to a pump with a capacity of three million gallons daily. The water was lifted to the eastern end of Mahncke Park and in 1897 steam power was added to the station.
Gutzon moved to the abandoned pumphouse in 1924, using it as a studio for 13 years.
Now that the hor d’oeuvres have been served, to whet our appetite, shall we share a salad with our famous homemade house dressing?
While reading a book titled Unfinished Dream, by June Zeither and Lincoln Borglum, I enjoyed learning these things and have chronologically and alphabetically tossed them into the salad section.
Research revealed this famous South Dakota mountain site is named after a young New York attorney named Rushmore who was doing legal work for a mining company. When he asked the name of the peak, his companions answered lightly, “Hanged if we know! Lets call the damned thing Rushmore.”
Gutzon’s first model, completed in his winter studio in Brackenridge Park, was of three figures.
Washington: Since he represented the birth of the nation and the noble spirit which started a courageous people on an untried course.
Jefferson: To show the inspiration of the Declaration of Independence along with the foresight of the Louisiana purchase which expanded our country.
Lincoln: Representing the humanity, the suffering, the compassion, and the eternal unity of the nation.
When Roosevelt was chosen it brought forth a flood of controversy. Calvin Coolidge agreed with Gutzon that Roosevelt would properly round out this saga in stone. His enthusiasm for the American West, his efforts in behalf of labor along with the building of the Panama Canal, proclaimed Roosevelt to be the logical choice. To Gutzon this choice was right. “Regardless of what biased people may think of these four human beings, they were the ones who personified certain basic elements, crucial to our survival and growth as a nation.”
Not only was the choice of Roosevelt an issue, Gutzon’s angels commissioned by the Belmont Chapel of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City erupted into a nationwide controversy. The ecclesiastical hierarchy rejected the models on the grounds they appeared too feminine. “Angels,” they declared, “are masculine.”
Gutzon’s statue of Atlas bearing the weight of the world shocked the conservative. Delighting in this controversy, because “Atlas” turned out to be a woman, the sculptor explained that only woman has the strength and endurance for such a weight.
There was also a conflict with the Daughters of the Confederacy over Stone Mountain which ended with Gutzon destroying his clay models. They raised a furious cry and demanded the immediate arrest of the fleeing sculptor. Gutzon escaped into North Carolina with the law of Georgia hot on his heels. North Carolina’s Governor McLean announced he would call out the militia to protect the sculptor.
Besides being a sculptor, Gutzon served as a chairman of Central Park in New York and gave his thoughts to help San Antonio keep its historic Missions and meandering river. He also worked out an ambitious plan to beautify the entire state of Texas.
He gave a strong speech before the first National Arts Committee urging the government to promote a cultural consciousness in America. He felt that the government should scout out potential artist, but should never try to guide or mold the arts.
Gutzon’s plan for world peace was one of 20 selected for the Edward Bok American Peace Award for writers.
He regularly wrote “Letters to the Editor” delighting readers from coast to coast. They were well written, to the point, attention getting, and presented the unknown side of controversial issues.
Lincoln Borglum described his father as “a man of medium height, stocky build, and exceptionally broad shoulders. He had brown hair and piercing blue eyes. His cheeks were broad, his jaw square, and his chin determined. He was seldom seen without a brisk felt hat, which covered his balding head. His clothing was somewhat of a hybrid between that of an imaginative artist and a western bank president.”
Thrift, strict budgets, or bookkeeping were not necessary parts of Gutzon’s life. “Many times his commissions barely paid for the cost of his supplies, and often he would donate an important work, or turn part of his money back to the organization that commissioned him.”
Mount Rushmore took 16 years of his life. He died in debt, and his son, Lincoln, had to beg the government to pay Mary, Gutzon’s wife, the rest of the fees due Gutzon at his death.
as we engage on an entree where it is
considered in bad taste to request
In 1937, Gutzon left his studio to the Witte Museum, where it was used for the Museum School of Art. This group eventually merged with the Art Institute, started by Marion Koogler McNay. Rumor revealed Etienne Ret, a French portrait painter invited here by Mrs. McNay to teach, worked in Gutzon’s studio. With these events a tradition was born. The tradition of handing down a studio. There were others who worked here before it closed in 1960; Max Fitzpatrick, Chester Tony, Jack Fletcher, and Dan Withers. Since then, various attempts have been made to utilize the building. Julie Black proposed a pottery studio in 1976, but the most recent renovation plan was prepared by Rudy Trevino. Today, after 18 years, we are slowly beginning to gather together at it’s cemented windows and locked door to re-call it’s role as contained in the words of Etienne Ret: “Perhaps I will not come back to teach, but I will come back, yes. San Antonio is after all one of the few cities where you can live life as it should be lived.”
Now there is a pleasant golf course with golfers walking and talking with the crew that maintains the lawns … joggers pass occasionally … people visit, even if only to ask questions about the pumphouse. But the community needs this place to be filled with artists again. It should be used as a meeting house by all the artists in San Antonio. Gutzon would like that.
Time has again brought us here to unlock The Studio doors. Not only the future, but now we know, the choice is to hear the knock or to ignore.
A Fortune Cookie,
begins our next course.