With the addition of a new monumental stone and marble sculpture by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, the River Walk Public Art Garden now has its anchor.
The city’s Department of Arts and Culture commissioned Stargazer (Citlali) as the signature public art project included in the 2017 municipal bond. After a deliberative selection and approval process, installation of the piece was completed in early March, adding an iconic artwork to the department’s growing collection of public art.
Stargazer sits atop a concrete platform amid the winding footbridges of the River Walk, situated at the joint of the T-shaped juncture where the San Antonio River extension splits north under the Shops at Rivercenter mall and south under the Henry B. González Convention Center.
The 16-foot-tall feminine figure of the Stargazer faces west, and might well be looking at the Antorcha de Amistad by Sebastián, which towers over Alamo Street on the opposite end of the block-long public art garden.
Whether Stargazer attains the iconic status of its companion sculpture remains to be seen.
Gazing at Stargazer
On a recent sunny afternoon, the towering sculpture evaded the gaze of many people strolling by, perhaps too tall to be noticed amid the scenery and River Walk bustle.
Rob and Lisa, a couple visiting from Washington state, stopped to check it out, drawn by the finely textured surface of the gray volcanic stone that makes up the seated female figure, who holds a relatively tiny, bright white marble star shape between her fingers.
They said their guide on a river boat tour passed by the sculpture without mentioning it, and their close-up search for information was met only with signs that asked “please do not climb” on the artwork.
Lisa wondered if the figure was “looking at the stars,” or perhaps “looking at her dreams?” Rob said his first thought was that the piece represents “Aztec culture,” and was hoping an information plaque might bear him out.
Longtime friends Jules and Simon were on a visit from England, and stopped to admire Stargazer. Jules said the form of the sculpture reminded her of artwork by British modernist sculptor Henry Moore, or monumental figures by French sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Simon said he prefers photography and ceramics over monumental sculpture, and while he appreciates the attempt to inspire others with form and art, “this one doesn’t particularly sing for me, personally.”
Gretchen and Erica, ready to head back home to snowy Minnesota after a week in San Antonio, agreed that Stargazer is “beautiful.”
Erica said, “It’s just kind of gets me inside of myself, thinking.”
Gretchen found the marble star evocative of other forms. “The star also to me looks … almost like a human figure,” she said.
A timeless message
In a statement about the artwork, which Reyes refers to simply as Citlali — meaning “star” in Nahuatl, the indigenous language of his native Mexico City region — the artist said he made the star form purposely ambiguous.
“The figure she holds and examines is an abstract five-pronged form, which could be one of the flint tools or arrowheads still found on the ground in the area today, or a fossilized shell from the region’s even deeper history under the ocean,” Reyes wrote. “Or it could also be a star like the ones that shine over San Antonio in the present — the same ones that have been contemplated by all peoples throughout the region’s human history, the same ones that inspire awe and wonder as they help us glimpse our place in relation to the universe and to time.”
The star and figure holding it, he continued, “represents San Antonio’s founding, formed as it is from an extraordinary and complex convergence of different human cultures and natural legacies.”
Visitors to the San Antonio Musem of Art might find Reyes’ name familiar from four sculptures acquired in March 2020 and currently on view in the Latin American Contemporary Art collection.
Collectively titled Desarmer — Disarm in English — the sculptures are working musical instruments made from guns confiscated in Ciudad Juárez by the Mexican Secretary of Defense: a glockenspiel, tambourine, violin and a three-stringed guitar with the additional title Ahimsa, which translates from Sanskrit as “nonviolence.”
As a work intended for a broad public, Stargazer represents a more expansive view of humanity than the immediacies of violence, national identity and borders.
In his statement, Reyes said the sculpture, though silent, offers a message for its viewers. Citlali “takes us out of our immediate history and offers a timeless perspective, leaving us with two contrasting but concurrent perceptions: the humbling realization of how small we are and the stirring appreciation of the significance of what we have inherited.”
Stacey Norton, interim marketing, film and music administrator for the Department of Arts and Culture, said a dedication ceremony for Stargazer and the art garden will be held in the fall, with further details forthcoming.