After years at other venues, the Luminaria contemporary arts festival returns to a renovated Hemisfair – Yanaguana Garden to be precise – Friday night to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The free event runs from 7-11 p.m. and features artwork and performances by 49 artists and collaborative groups from as near as San Antonio, Austin, and Houston to as far away as Seattle, Brooklyn, Barcelona, and sister city Windhoek, Namibia.

Luminaria programming will also be featured Saturday during Southtown the Arts District Festival.

In their room-sized installation titled Biochromatic, featured at the Instituto Cultural de México on Friday, a collaborative group of artists from San Antonio and Austin represents the essence of Luminaria.

“Our goal was to highlight the edges of what we think about as illumination and light,” said Adrian Orozco, one artist of the five-member group called Essentials.

Their work takes bioluminescence as a subject, achieved through photographic digital collages printed in varying textures and illuminated by fluorescent and black lights. Human eyesight can perceive only a limited light spectrum, and the Essentials hope to inspire attendees “to imagine other ways of seeing,” Orozco said.

An exhibition by Essentials features projection, collage prints, and a variety of light at the Instituto Cultural de Mexico.
Essentials’ Biochromatic exhibition at the Instituto Cultural de México features projection, collage prints, and a variety of light. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Technology-based art features in this year’s festival ranged from simpler tools like glow-in-the-dark paint in a mural by Reskate, a duo visiting from Barcelona, to more complicated electronics like the radio transmitter and live video puppet show, titled The Clown Was Stung By Wasps, employed by San Antonio’s Miniature Curiosa. For the latter, attendees can pick up a radio to listen in on a spoken soundtrack performed live in a parked car facing the video screen, meant to evoke the familiarity of a drive-in movie.

The Land Heritage Institute will present the “world’s first solar mural,” a set of solar panels covered in a special light-penetrable film with a graphic by Cruz Ortiz. The lotería card motif replaces the usual parrot image on the “24” card with a Monarch butterfly, meant to acknowledge San Antonio’s status as a Champion Monarch City and the beneficial effects of renewable energy on threatened species. A placard accompanying the solar mural claims that the the power gathered throughout the day will illuminate the artwork throughout Luminaria.

Artist and festival co-organizer Ethel Shipton encouraged festival goers to enjoy the evening’s ambience and be intrepid seekers of art.

“The cool thing about it,” she said, “is that you have to find your way through the space,” from Yanaguana Garden down to the River Walk near the convention center to find the installations.

Special community events, including a symposium on Feminist Art in a Digital Age at Mercury Projects, featuring current Artpace International artist-in-residence Martha Wilson, take place on Saturday in the Southtown: The Arts District.

Click here to see a full schedule and map of Luminaria exhibitions.

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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...