Artpace has unveiled their Fall 2017 International Artist-In-Residence installation – and it is truly an interactive experience.
Artpace invites a guest curator to showcase the talents of three different artists for each residency, three times each year. The curator will select one international, one national, and one Texas artist to participate in the program, living and working in San Antonio to complete their exhibit. Resident artists receive a working studio space, a set stipend and production budget, and the support of Artpace staff. The artists’ work will be on display through the end of December 2017.
This fall’s residency is curated by Michael Smith, artist and professor at UT Austin. The artists chosen to participate this season are Lili Reynauld-Dewar, Heyd Fontenot, and Martha Wilson. The artists have been living in San Antonio since September and working tirelessly in preparation for the opening of this exhibit.
Beyond the Land of Minimal Possession by Lili Reynaud-Dewar
Reynaud-Dewar lives and works in Grenoble, France. Her installation consists of a large room covered from wall to wall with a plush red carpet and a screen showcasing the rough cut of a film created by Reynaud-Dewar and several of her students from Haute École d’Art et de Design in Geneva.
The film playing was set and filmed in Marfa, TX, at the Judd Foundation, which is a partner of Raynaud-Dewar’s school. She calls the film horror but notes that other genres also come into play, as the film also touches on art, dance, and the effects of gentrification and tourism – with a touch of campy humor.
Reynaud-Dewar spoke about her installation’s exploration of what should be excluded from or included in art institutions today. She speaks of the limits of access to art within certain institutions, and of power dynamics holding those rights at bay. Her production crew experienced this firsthand while they were in Marfa, and unable to film or take photos within the different museum and studio spaces.
The room itself is simple yet inviting; Reynaud-Dewar says that she enjoys the idea of an audience being welcomed into a cozy and comforting environment, and then made uncomfortable by the images and scenes on the screen. The film’s theme of unnatural phenomena, death, and shared nightmares will undoubtedly create the desired effect.
Unnatural Urges by Heyd Fontenot
Fontenot is a Texas-based artist from Dallas who has created within Artpace an avant-garde “occupied installation” piece. His exhibit was a set piece from a film he’s working on called Flaming Critters, which itself is an homage to Jack Smith’s Flaming, and Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising.
The first impression of the installation is that it’s a stage – but upon closer inspection, the outer façade leads into a small maze of rooms adorned with an eclectic array of decor, focusing primarily on the horns and skins of several different types of animals. The work itself is a comment on the high expectations and failures of domesticity. Fontenot gave us insight into how humanity tends to set the stage in our own homes for domestic dramas to be acted out.
The taxidermy theme throughout the piece symbolizes Fontenot’s past and the homes with which he was familiar while growing up. Living in a rural area of Texas, it was not uncommon to find homes overly decorated with the body parts of animals. Fontenot speaks of the struggle he experienced when he came to realize that he is gay, and how sharing that with his very conservative family had a lasting effect on him. The discomfort he must have felt is evident within the piece, which imparts a feeling of conflict and uneasy ambiguity.
In addition to the elaborately and carefully decorated rooms within the structure, Fontenot deliberately left areas of the wood uncovered and tools lying about in order for the viewer to see the farce. He states, “I’m telling you that I’m lying to you. I’m telling you I’ve constructed something… It’s a work in progress; a workhorse. This will be utilized to other ends.”
Political Evolution by Martha Wilson
Martha Wilson is an award-winning artist from New York City. Over the past four decades, her works in subjective feminism and performance art have been widely revered by artists and critics alike. Her installation is a collection of photographs that represent different aspects and struggles that modern women still face. She sums up her life’s work when she states, “looking at the absurd condition that women are born into has been my career.”
All of the photographs in the exhibit are of Wilson herself. One particular series on display features Wilson portraying several of the most recent Presidents and First Ladies. She transforms herself into her subject, often gaining inspiration from a notable public moment. The most recent and featured piece includes a photographic morphing of her own image into that of Melania Trump.
Wilson was also tasked to portray Michele Obama, a subject she approached with caution so as not to be racially insensitive. She sought the counsel of several Black colleagues before settling on a representation that split her image between herself and the former First Lady. This portrayal gave her pause, as well as a chance for deeper exploration into what can be seen as culturally acceptable in an artistic environment and what will always remain off-limits.
To experience this installation as a whole is to witness a performance of life. Whether it was the strangeness of new places, the fear of past places, or the challenge of being yourself in an indifferent world, these pieces came together to tell important stories that reflect on the oddness and diversity of humanity.
As always, admission to view all Artpace exhibits is free to the public. Learn more about the various exhibitions and programs that Artpace has to offer by visiting their website at www.artpace.org.