This post is the second in a series focusing on publicly accessible outsider art installations in San Antonio, Texas. The first post in this series covered the work of bird house maker Samuel Mirelez. All photos by Justin Parr.
Although San Antonio is considered a well-integrated city, the black population is still for the most part confined to the east side of town. Hackberry Street is one of the main thoroughfares running through the east side near downtown. It is on the corner of Hackberry and Nevada that Rev. Seymour Perkins wages a battle against drugs and violence with art, mythology, and religion. At his home on Hackberry, Rev. Perkins runs Hanging Tough Ministries, Perkins Art School, and The Debbie Jo Christi Museum Project. His ministries began after Perkins’ daughter was killed in drug-related violence. He then started preaching and working in the neighborhood to curtail drug use. In 1999, his church was burned to the ground. Even after this tragedy, Perkins continued to preach from the cement slab on which the church once stood:
Much of Rev. Perkins’ art celebrates boundary-breaking African-Americans, such as the first black cowboy, Nat Love, the first black college president, Martin Freeman, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Martin Luther King, Jr (you can find some of these portraits at San Angel Folk Art). At other times Perkins uses the art itself to break down barriers, by painting the Statue of Liberty as a black woman, John F. Kennedy, Jr. as a black man, or by painting traditionally white, aristocratic hairpieces on various black figures. By interweaving American mythology with his own visions, Perkins becomes a sort of poetic revisionist, fighting truth with faith. He works as a quixotic figure, trying to break down long-entrenched boundaries and nullify the fear, hatred, and desperation that they have created within his community.
Recently, Rev. Perkins was arrested by San Antonio Police officers after a search turned up drugs in his home. Some claim the drugs were planted there, while others speculate that a member of Perkins’ “congregation”, many of whom use drugs themselves, may have left the substance in his home inadvertently. The artist is out of jail, but his legal fate is uncertain.
I took part in San Antonios semi-regular Bike Gang Summit the other night for Halloween. During the process of riding through spooky parts of the city, we stopped at a cemetary on the East Side. It quickly degenerated into a game of Wheres Waldo..take a look (Waldo makes an appearance in each of these images).
To see images from the entire night go here.
I just received news that Garth Clark Gallery in New York, one of the best contemporary ceramics galleries anywhere, is closing. According to the co-owner of the gallery, Mark Del Vecchio:
After 27 years and over 600 exhibitions we have decided to go “private” and “by appointment only”. We no longer represent artists and no longer present exhibitions. This has been a difficult decision to make but we are somewhat burned out after all our years of rotating exhibitions and while we remain in business in the same locations with the same phone numbers, this limited time frame will allow us to grow in new directions. We will do “salons” from time to time in which the gallery will be open for an evening but otherwise we have our door closed on 57th street and are working privately with collectors and museums selling resale works from the latter part of the 20th century.
As we noted back in June, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is acquiring 375 pieces from the Garth Clark Mark Del Vecchio collection, which will be unveiled in May, 2008.
This post is the first in a series that will cover some currently active, publicly viewable outsider art installations in San Antonio. We’re starting with Samuel Mirelez because he passed away on September 17 after a long battle with cancer, and the work may only be viewable for a short time. In the coming days we’ll cover Rev. Seymour Perkins and Ed Clark. All photos by Justin Parr.
As with all the artists we’ll be looking at in this series, Samuel Mirelez began his work as a gesture of love. Finding himself in a state of poverty, and with a wedding anniversary fast approaching, Mirelez decided to craft a gift for his wife out of Folger’s coffee cans. Despite the humble materials, the gift was ambitious: a bird house modeled after the San Fernando Cathedral, where the couple wed. The gift was a success, but the choice of materials took its toll; soon, the bird house began to rust and deteriorate. Seeing his wife’s dismay, Mirelez vowed to build a new San Fernando bird house, this time out of aluminum. Soon he found himself building bird houses for his children, his friends, and his coworkers. And he kept building them. He modeled bird houses after castles, Spanish missions, even the White House and the Kremlin. Eventually his yard, front and back, became a permanent installation of avian domiciles (though, strangely, with very few birds):
Although he switched to rust-proof metals, he continued to use found materials for all his houses: left over aluminum siding, scraps of wood, and anything else he could find, or that friends would give him. On a recent visit to the Mirelez house, we even spotted a transparent bird house:
The pieces also became less functional over the years, although they retained an architectural focus. Note this large piece with no walls, but architectural features including arches, spires, and friezes.
Since UTSA art professor Ken Little is doing a performance of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece tonight, I thought I’d link back to a post I wrote about the piece in the early days of Emvergeoning (the seventh post!). It is a four part response to a video of Ono performing the piece at Carnegie Hall.
After all the dust settles from Artpace’s Chalk It Up, looks like Executive Director Matthew Drutt was MIA again, missing the biggest community art event that Artpace organizes for the second year in a row. Apparently eating BBQ in Marfa and sipping cocktails in London are more lucrative endeavors for the local contemporary art director. In the meantime, Artpace is still interviewing for a new curator, any rumors on the potential candidates?
In other news, looks like its a dead end for Volitant Gallery in Austin. That’s the nature of the fickle art market, but Director Xochi Solis says this will give her time to work on individual art projects. Everyone disliked the marble floors and moveable walls, but the gallery had ideal acoustics and voluminous wall space for video installations. The last day to slide across the white marble and catch Femme Fantastique will be October 31st. :(
If you’re in Houston next week, be sure to check out Alejandro Diaz, Chuck Ramirez and the ubiquitous Franco Mondini-Ruiz on Nov. 2nd at a strange place called the New World Museum [sounds like Orwellian territory].
Finally, congratulations to Artlies Magazine for making it to the big leagues: attaining a barcode and a slot alongside every other art magazine in America. It took 8 years of publishing free, quarterly issues before being picked up by a national distributor, so support the lies of art and go buy a copy!
Efterklang is a good way to start the day…
NY Times ran a great article about the tortured life of Peanuts’ creator, Charles Schultz. This graphic by Kim Scafuro had me in stitches. A new biography by David Michaelis spurred the article. Michaelis paints a melancholic picture of the beloved cartoonist, seven years post mortem. Reporter Randy Kennedy makes good use of references from Balzac to Toulouse-Lautrec with lots of levity in between. The last line lets Schultz speak for himself and it makes me wonder if Pig Pen wasn’t Schultz walking around with a little, scribbly cloud hovering above him everyday.
I’ve had the good fortune to stumble on a couple of great sites in the past couple of days. Sound artist Steve Roden’s blog (“basically a space to share ‘the collection’, much of which serves as inspiration for my work…”), which contains lots of interesting artistic tidbits, including this version of “Listen to the Mockingbird” by Fiddlin “Red” Herron.
And also The Page, a site cataloging links to new poetry, essays about poetry, and some other literary nuggets thrown in for variety. Enjoy.
Seems Myspace is good for something..the other day my friend Julia sent along a bulletin making mention of a new project titled “Casa Segura.” I thought it quite relevant to our present locale and situation (you know..those fancy new solves-all-problems border fences?) . from the website :
Casa Segura (Safe House) is an artwork that combines a small public access structure on private land in the Sonoran desert in Southern Arizona with a dynamic bilingual web space that facilitates creative exchange, dialogue, and understanding. Located north of the Mexican border, Casa Segura engages three distinct groups: Mexican migrants crossing the border through this dangerous landscape, the property owners whose land they cross, and members of the general public interested in learning more about border issues and the intricate dynamics at play in this heavily trafficked region. It is a conceptual project that contrasts existing conditions with new choices that can positively transform how individuals on both sides of the divide engage with and perceive one another.
The City of Marfa endured an influx of Texas hipsters last weekend. Why would people drive eight hours to a former POW camp in West Texas? A free plate of barbecue courtesy of the Chinati Foundation and the chance to watch Sonic Youth in a small pavilion across the street from a Dairy Queen. San Antonio photographer Patrick Zeller drove out to Marfa and took some great photos of his West Texas journey here. There was a sprawling group show of more than 60 artists at Building 98 called Camp Marfa, a place where you could sit on a couch and watch a sort of Faces of Death version of competitive bull-riding accidents as well as a strikingly poetic series of explosions and slivers of nuclear test documentaries. Fort Russell was once a rest stop for famous generals and various U.S. presidents. The weathered, built in bar still houses a framed, velvet wall that kept high ranking medals. It’s a beautiful example of the art of absence, with the darkened blue velvet beneath the missing medals becoming accidental evidence of importance. There was a big West Texas contingent over at Building 98, with Jeffrey Wheeler at the helm. Wheeler and his brother run a space in Lubbock and started the ongoing, traveling exhibition called Ulterior Motifs. Some of the artists featured in this year’s show include Mel Chin, Bale Creek Allen, Daniel Johnston and Sharon Kopriva. I was in a last minute group show at a renovated restaurant at the edge of town called 500e. Austinites Sean Gaulager, Hank Waddell, Adreon Henry and Jacob Villanueva put the show together on a shoestring and a little bit of help from Vitamin Water and Sapphire Gin.[Sounds awful, but that combination incurs zero hangovers] After Sonic Youth, Adreon Henry’s band Single Frame played for the meandering crowds. They will be playing again on Halloween if you are in the state capital that day. Over and out. More pictures?