If one purpose of the Threads Bare group exhibition at Blue Star Contemporary is the activation of fashion as a means of self-expression, a First Friday event by one participating artist provides anyone a chance to strut down the catwalk.

Artist Luis Valderas has patiently awaited the chance to hold his Cosmic Couture Open Call that invites anyone to dress up in cosmically-inspired costumery and join in on his longstanding Project:MASA series of exhibitions.

Project:MASA IV – Cosmic Couture was initially slated to open in the summer of 2020 at Centro de Artes, but was first postponed during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, then moved to Blue Star Contemporary. The participatory open call event was then postponed from the exhibition’s opening date on Feb. 4 because of the omicron surge.

Showing up Friday evening in a “cosmic outfit or space suit” of the user’s own making will earn three things: a portrait taken by JoJo Dancer Photos, inclusion in a future Project:MASA exhibit, and a “MASA-porte,” a passport that Valderas said certifies “galactic citizenship” and supports the artist’s vision of a post-colonial world wherein everyone has agency to chart their own future.

The very first Project:MASA show opened at Gallista Gallery in 2005 with a blessing of the four corners of the universe by a group of Aztec dancers, Valderas said. “It’s a connection to the cosmic aspects of our culture,” including seasonal awareness of the stars for agriculture, and Aztec mythologies.

“From there, it just continued developing [and] brought in aspects of the reimagination of realities that a lot of the Chicano artists were doing back then, and are still doing,” he said.

Similar to the Afrofuturist movement of the late 1990s, Project:MASA offers a Latino vision of an inclusive future. A play on the word “masa,” a corn flour dough used in many Latin American dishes, the project’s playful acronym stands for MeChicano Alliance of Space Artists.

The first three Project:MASA installments ran from 2005-2007, which led to inclusion in exhibitions around the U.S. including Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas at the University of California–Riverside in 2017 and subsequently in New York at the Queens Museum and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art.

The fifth Project MASA installment, focused on Chicana feminism, is running concurrently at Centro Cultural Aztlan as Mars Needs More Women. The exhibition catalog release was held Wednesday evening, and the show will be on display through June 10.

The Cosmic Couture Open Call is more of a closing for the Threads Bare show, which ends Sunday. Regardless of the closing, Project:MASA and Valderas’ fascination with the cosmos will continue.

“I’m constantly watching the stars,” he said, “because of wonderment, and because of the understanding of how we are connected to everything in the universe, and [how] we’re responsible for this piece of land we walk on.”

Blue Star Contemporary offers free access to its exhibitions, with donations requested in lieu of admission. Exhibitions at Centro Cultural Aztlan are free and open to the public.

Nicholas Frank

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 an indie rock...