Belgian Artist Arne Quinze. Photo by Joan Vinson.

Belgian Artist Arne Quinze has the hair that so many great artists seem to have. It sticks up in no particular direction, and even resembles his asymmetrical artwork.

Quinze, who installed his sculpture “Whisper” earlier this week near Mission San Juan, spoke at the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum on Thursday night during an event hosted by the San Antonio River Foundation. The sculpture will be revealed at a ceremony next Wednesday.

Quinze started his talk on Friday by showing the audience dozens of photos of large, industrial cities, and the geometric buildings that make up the cityscape.

“This is how I see the world,” he said. Quinze’s inspiration for his work is to create a balance between his artwork’s asymmetrical, haphazard lines and the congruent, straight lines that make up the fabric of today’s built environment.

“I try to find the beauty in the ugliness,” he said.

Quinze also takes inspiration from nature. He incorporates the earth’s natural color, texture, and movement into his artwork, much like he did with “Whisper.”

'Whisper" is composed of vibrant colors to mimic South Texas wildflowers. Image courtesy of the San Antonio River Foundation.
Arne Quinze’s ‘Whisper” is composed of vibrant colors to mimic South Texas wildflowers and has been installed near Mission San Juan. Image courtesy of the San Antonio River Foundation.

When Quinze visited San Antonio months ago, he was drawn to the wildflowers – their vibrant colors, and clustered growth patterns. “Whisper,” his first installation in the U.S., is composed of eight metal statues that stand together like wildflowers. On one side they are painted with a mix of color, and on the other side the metal is left untouched, and the texture resembles tree bark.

“My inspiration for the texture of this installation was a tree that was standing behind the (future location of the) sculptures,” he said. Quinze’s eye did not stop at the typical beauty of a flower, instead he looked further into the wildscape to draw inspiration from the sights that the casual observer might overlook.

“Whisper,” which sits between the San Antonio River and Mission San Juan, acts as a portal between the two. The River Foundation, as the nonprofit partner to the San Antonio River Authority, is providing funding and curation for each Mission’s public art portal. Whereas Quinze often creates his work in opposition to environments, Quinze seemed to take a softer approach toward San Antonio’s landscape and the nearby historic Missions that were designated as a World Heritage site in early July.

The $245.7 million Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project was completed in 2013 and has become a part of many residents daily recreational lives and placed on many visitor’s to-do list. The eight mile pedestrian and bicycle trail connects all four Spanish colonial Missions. The portal projects represent the River Foundation’s continued dedication to further enhancing the community’s investment in the Mission Reach with public art. Mission Concepción’s portal was celebrated earlier this month.

Arne Quinze works on his sculpture, "Whisper." Image courtesy of the San Antonio River Foundation.
Arne Quinze works on his sculpture, “Whisper.” Image courtesy of the San Antonio River Foundation.

“I think it is really nice to bring in contemporary art,” he said. “I think there is a really good marriage between both (artwork and the Missions).”

Quinze is building a replica of “Whisper” in the Netherlands, but the European version will be located in an urban environment and will consist of 20 statues instead of eight. When Quinze walked along the Mission reach, inhaling the wildflowers, trees, and water, he was sparked with inspiration.

“When I was here I was playing with the colors,” he said. “I was playing with my environment.”

When Quinze returned to Europe and visited the Netherlands, lacking of color and liveliness, he decided to bring a little piece of San Antonio to Europe.

“It is important to bring nature and culture into the city to make them link,” he said.

“Whisper,” sits out in the open for anyone to see and is meant to spark dialogue between average citizens, not just those in the art world.

“Culture is always happening behind museum, opera and theater walls,” he said. Quinze aims to create “a direct dialogue between people who are not used to being in contact with art. I think it is important to create that kind of connection.”

Quinze encourages visitors to interact with his artwork.

“You can touch them,” he said.

*Top image: Belgian Artist Arne Quinze. Photo by Joan Vinson.  

Related Stories:

Mission Concepción Portal Blends Nature With Architecture

San Antonio Celebrates World Heritage Site Designation

A Mission Mass to Close World Heritage Celebrations

World Heritage Celebration: Mission Accomplished

Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....