This time of year Luminaria would normally be gearing up for its annual fall festival. When the coronavirus pandemic forced the festival’s cancellation, the organization, which aims to make contemporary art accessible to a broad public, sought new ways of bringing art to the people.
The result is the Works-In-Process fall series, a multi-venue presentation of the Luminaria Artist Foundation’s six 2020 award grantees, which kicked off Oct. 21 and runs through Oct. 30. Though each artist will ultimately present their finished grant projects next year, the fall series offers a glimpse into their working processes.
The Works-In-Process decentralized exhibition will take place at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, along Houston Street downtown, in public libraries throughout the city, the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, and on VIA buses. The series includes one-time live presentations and artworks viewable throughout the 10 days of the exhibition.
On Saturday, Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Auld House, artist Jenelle Esparza will host a live, socially-distanced question-and-answer session to talk about how family history informs her bronze casts of cotton bulbs.
The evening of Monday, Oct. 26, multimedia artist Mark McCoin will perform alongside collaborative partners Max Bernstein, Christie Blizard, and Leigh Callaway, all artists with their own approaches to performance, for Isolated and On Display. The performance will take place in the window displays of the new Devil’s River Whiskey Distillery on East Houston Street downtown from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
McCoin said his open collaborative approach can produce unexpected results, “because it brings in a third thing, something that I couldn’t have expected, and they couldn’t have expected.” What occurs, he said, “is oftentimes much more interesting than anything I could have come up with [myself].”
The performance will involve piano harps – string sections removed from their piano housings – played by McCoin and Bernstein, Blizard’s disorienting noise and light-based costumed improvisation, and a “deep and authentic” performance Calloway developed as a graduate student, McCoin said.
McCoin also teaches as an associate professor in the art department at the University of Texas at San Antonio and has often worked with students on collaborative projects. Though he originally intended to perform solo, he said when outgoing Luminaria Executive Director Kathy Armstrong located the site, the unique architecture of the 1920s-era building housing the distillery dictated a four-person performance, each in their own curved glass bubble.
“It’s the collision of those four artists working on their own, together,” he said, which reflects the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic, “which is being isolated, and being sort of on display at the same time” on videoconferencing screens. He hopes the work will represent “the chaotic breakdown of our culture, our economies, survival, and truth,” he said.
The works of painter and performance artist Raul Gonzalez will be on display through Oct. 30 throughout the city on VIA buses and in transit hubs, with a video of the artist teaching himself to paint in oils viewable on VIA’s website. Luminaria Administrative Manager Holly Holbrook said the idea of partnering Gonzalez with VIA was to highlight the issue of parenting visible in much of the artist’s work, which focuses on his role as caretaker of his two daughters while his spouse maintains a full-time job.
“Where are parents these days?” Holbrook asked herself in considering the ideal placement of Gonzalez’s work, and she felt reaching working parents who use the transit system would match his subject with their concerns.
The work of 2019 San Antonio Poet Laureate Octavio Quintanilla will be accessible to anyone familiar with the San Antonio Public Library (SAPL). Quintanilla focused on “frontextos,” or visual poems, for his project, printed on postcards available for free “contactless loans pickup” through Oct. 30 at all library branches. The frontextos will also be viewable on the SAPL website, with an interactive opportunity for anyone to share their own writing.
On Oct. 29 at 6 p.m., Quintanilla and poet Jim LaVilla-Havelin will present a free livestream session on visual poetry, with registration required.
Also on display throughout the 10-day period of the fall series will be a sonic sculpture of Pamela Martinez, subtitled Artemisia: Touching at a Distance. The second part of performance series Teletextile: Artemisia, the “Aeolian wind harp” produces “ethereal harmonic frequencies when high winds blow across its strings,” according to the Luminaria website.
Martinez will lead a free socially-distanced “Sound Walk” Oct. 25 from 6-8 p.m. along Camaron Street, starting at Travis Street and ending at the Santa Rosa Street pavilion. The event will include instructions for participants to make a wind harp out of a cardboard box at home.
The sonic sculpture will be installed in the San Pedro Creek Culture Park for the duration of the fall series and will be fully realized for the 2021 Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival.
Dance artist Violeta De Leon Davila focuses on another social disease that existed long before the pandemic, and exacerbated by isolation and stigma. In a video visible in the Majestic Theater’s box office booth on East Houston Street, Davila introduces her project titled They Taught You Wrong: Metanoia.
The term metanoia refers to transformation, and Davila’s hope is that society will reconsider how roles of masculinity and femininity are taught, and the “horrific results” of that teaching, which include domestic violence and the epidemic of femicide in Mexico.
Davila is originally from northern Mexico and clearly states the intent of her work. “I want to bring awareness of what is happening, and has been happening for a long time, silently,” she said.
In all, Holbrook said the fall series will offset “the dog days of COVID” with “inspiration, hope beauty, whatever you’re looking for at this time, whatever you find in the artworks.”
This article has been updated to correct a quote from Holly Holbrook due to a transcription error.