Heroes of Black culture and visions of an inclusive future go on display Thursday at the Carver Gallery in the Carver Community Cultural Center, in side-by-side exhibitions by San Antonio artists.

Maverick Pascal and Timothy Lister make portraits of important Black historical figures, but both artists also bring personal stories and visions into their work.

A younger version of the 33-year-old Pascal once dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but exclusionary white culture and self-editing changed his focus. 

“I let society limit me,” he said. “When we limit ourselves, we stop imagining.” 

But Pascal is grateful that his path eventually led him to become an artist, where he can freely exercise his imagination and explore a limitless universe of ideas.

He titled his forthcoming exhibition We Can Be Astronauts Too to honor the power of self-actualization. Several paintings portray a spacesuited astronaut figure freed of their helmet, with butterflies streaming skyward.

Portraits from Maverick Pascal are assembled into a grid at the Carver Community Cultural Center.
Portraits from Maverick Pascal are displayed as a grid at the Carver Community Cultural Center. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The butterflies are the stories that make up each of us, Pascal said, stories we tell ourselves and others about who we are, what we believe and what we want to become. 

The figure is deliberately without gender, Pascal said, in part because butterflies represent metamorphosis. “There’s always something that I can learn from you. You could tell me a story, and you could get me off the couch tomorrow,” he said of the ways people can inspire each other.

In a piece comprised of 20 portraits, Pascal combines silhouetted images of friends who have inspired him with Black historical figures who helped make space flight possible, from pioneering aviator Bessie Coleman to the brilliant NASA mathematicians commemorated in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan.

The 20th canvas is blank, a move meant as an all-inclusive gesture to potentially become the portrait of anyone looking at it.

“That’s exactly what this whole thing is about,” Pascal said of his exhibition. “It’s basically showing that everyone has stories that can push the culture forward.

A portrait of Francisco “Pancho” Villa by artist Timothy Lester titled Friend of the Poor greets visitors to the Carver Community Cultural Center.
A portrait of Francisco “Pancho” Villa by artist Timothy Lister titled Friend of the Poor greets visitors to the Carver Community Cultural Center. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

In the side gallery, 71-year-old Lister displays painted portraits of important historical figures from Harriet Tubman to Barack Obama.

The Texas native recalls learning art in elementary school in Rockport, studying Renaissance painting, “the time when it was crucial to know your craft, and crucial to paint,” he said.  

Artist Timothy Lester stands in the gallery at the Carver Community Cultural Center where his portraits will be on display.
Artist Timothy Lister stands in the gallery at the Carver Community Cultural Center where his portraits will be on display. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

After his professional career in hospitality, Lister returned to artmaking, working mostly in pen-and-ink.

In addition to portraits, two nearly identical images hint at a connection to Pascal’s celestial imagery. A decade ago near his hometown of Brenham, he peered out of the window at the night sky to witness a UFO with brightly blinking lights, and a smaller ship emerging out of the mothership.

The title and Lister’s comments show his nonchalant reaction to the extraordinary experience. Of Night Sky Observation Around June 15th 2011, he said, “It’s just something that I remember seeing.”

Pascal’s We Can Be Astronauts Too and Lister’s side gallery exhibition open Thursday with a public reception from 6-9 p.m., and remain on view through Jan. 17. Admission to the Carver Gallery is free.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...