The evening of Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, saw veteran and first-time PechaKucha attendees and presenters with practically every seat inside the dark, serene building occupied for the prescribed 20 slides for 20 seconds presentation format.
Nan Cuba, Author
“Literature gives our identity,” affirmed writer, teacher, and Gemini Ink founder Nan Cuba. “It tells us who we are.” She exalted the importance of reading about the human experience, particularly in our role as the only animals to use language for communication, and in an age when person-to-person interaction is in some ways waning.
She described the 20-year process of writing her novel Body and Bread, and how the very point of it was something different upon completion that what she had imagined it to be while writing.
Cuba pointed to authors and books honored with the National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and Nobel Peace Prize. “These writers share insights about the human experience,” the author explained. “Reading their work teaches, comforts, and inspires us. We identify with the characters … and invariably learn to care about people different from ourselves.”
Margaret Craig, Printmaker
“Obviously I love pushing materials,” said Margaret Craig, printmaking department chair at the Southwest School of Art. “I use a press,” she continued, and “I also love bad puns.” Craig first studied biology, a field that has inspired organic motifs throughout her body of work. Shifting effortlessly between two and three-dimensional art, the artist uses media ranging from marbled paper and decals on ceramic to repurposed plastic trash.
Rather than restricting the creative process, printmaking and recurring images can expand artistic opportunities, Craig argued. “Printmaking is a way of making a point by repetition,” she said, explaining how no two prints she creates are the same. What’s more, “street artists use print methods because it’s a faster getaway.”
Richard Farias, Activist
Richard Farias, defined as an “activist” in the PechaKucha 12 program, began his talk contemplating that one-word label. More Emerson than Thoreau, he pointed to the public battle in the summer of 2013 for San Antonio’s non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) as proof that a little Thoreau-like spirit comes in handy from time to time.
Farias praised his parents for the unconditional love and acceptance he received when he told them he is gay. He applauded the late Hap Veltman, whose art and LGBT advocacy legacy lives on; the Current magazine for its bold “Out in San Antonio” cover; and contemporary public allies like NDO champion District 1 Council Member Diego Bernal.
Ending with images of the Empire State Building and the Alamo, both illuminated with the colors of the rainbow, Farias waxed hopeful: “Perhaps one day the Tower of the Americas will shine in rainbow colors, even just for one day, to show without question that the Alamo City embraces all of its diverse people.”
JJ Lopez, DJ
“The 50-plus year history of the disc jockey as a performer has been an extraordinary cultural revolution, both technically and technologically,” said JJ Lopez, an all-vinyl disc jockey for KRTU 91.7FM.
Tracing the history of DJs throughout the 20th century, Lopez described how the import of American R&B and soul infused with Jamaican dancehall sounds yielded rocksteady and reggae in the late 60s and early 70s. Toasting followed, as a precursor to rapping. He quoted a famous toast from the early 70s: “Musical disc with the flick of my wrist to make you jump and twist.
Northern soul, disco, turntables, house music, and trance – Lopez wove the intricate story of the evolution of disc jockeys, mentioning the mainstreaming of dance music, technological transformations, and blurred lines between DJs and electronic music producers. In spite of so many changes to the field, Lopez stays true to his unique form of the art.
“For me, nothing can replace playing vinyl records for a crowd of eager dancers,” he said. “In this regard, the fundamental philosophy of playing a good dance record to a crowd of devoted dancers doesn’t get lost in a sea of technology.”
Wes Harvey, Artist
Not only was PechaKucha 12 the first PK event at which Wes Harvey presented, it was the first he attended. He admitted to having a few nerves. “I thought I would also wear this collar to make me feel uncomfortable.”
Harvey only continued to delight as the first two slides depicted a flamboyant Liberace and later, a Botticelli-inspired Lady Gaga. He cited both as influencing his work as an artist, along with the aesthetic of the Rococo and Baroque periods.
In several of the pieces he displayed, including a still image from his performance at the Fox Motel, Harvey uses food as a sexual reference. He also commonly employs glitter and goldleaf as well as kitsch and its close cousin, “cute,” in his art. But perhaps the most recognizable component of his work is the stylized sketch of an exaggerated male figure, reminiscent of homoerotic drawings from the 1940s by Tom of Finland.
Concluding with an image of a ceramic, rainbow-colored Alamo, Harvey asked, “What’s more kitsch in San Antonio than the Alamo?” His parting words left the audience giggling: “And maybe that’s a glory hole in the corner, but I’m not sure.”
Tracy Edwards, Doula
Mother to nine biological children and doula to more than 425 births, Tracy Edwards likened labor to climbing Mount Everest: it’s unpredictable, like the weather; one prepares for it for months; and often, one seeks a guide – someone who has been there before, has studied the maps, and knows the path. “In the realm of childbearing, that person is called the doula,” said Edwards.
A doula serves to help ease the physical pain of labor, read the mother’s unspoken emotions, and provide support to both partners throughout the birthing process. She mothers the mother and parents the parents, and builds a uniquely intimate and familial bond with the couple.
“The doula is there to share in the joy of the birth of not only a new baby, but the birth of a new family,” said Edwards. “This is not a job,” she said, “this is who I am.”
Carlos Montoya, Bike Mechanic
Carlos Montoya is a native San-Antonian and bike mechanic. Throughout his presentation, he displayed images of bicycle trauma and modifications, from a tree branch through a tire to a bike wine rack.
He recounted brief anecdotes of characters he’s met in the shop or while rambling around town, namely a Sherpa on a quest to visit 150 countries and a local paleta man named Tomas (the watermelon flavor is especially good, Montoya noted).
He alternately displayed macro shots of bikes and photos of city streets, unremarkable to the untrained eye but perfect for sustained cycling.
Montoya delivered his 20 slides quietly and with understated and unexpected flares of dry humor, painting a subtle but true picture of his world.
Erik Sanden + Ryan Parker, Musician + Illustrator
The glory days of Taco Land, a San Antonio landmark and legendary if divey music venue, abruptly ended in 2005 with the tragic deaths of Ram Ayala and Douglas Morgan.
Erik Sanden and Ryan Parker used their PechaKucha presentation to recount a deeply personal history of the legendary music venue.
Taco Land gave rise to countless friendships, rivalries, love stories, bands, and musicians. Sanden, a member of Buttercup, narrated his version of the Taco Land story. Captivating illustrations by Parker accompanied the oral history.
The tale was at once riotous, nostalgic, and dark, but colorful all the while thanks to the late Ram Ayala’s vocabulary and Parker’s striking images. This is definitely one to watch for yourself, so check the PechaKucha San Antonio YouTube page for the video, which will be uploaded within the next few days.
The next PechaKucha night will take place on Feb. 25, 2014, at the Blue Star arts complex. And of course stay tuned the Rivard Report for details.
Miriam Sitz is a freelance writer in San Antonio. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz and click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.