Mary Bonner, well known etcher, in conjunction with her sister, Emma Jane, has a studio on Agarita Street. There, period furniture, rare objets d’art, first editions, and, of course best of all, etchings my be had. ‘Mary’ has won many medals and decorations from the French Government for her etchings. The Bonner place… is set in an ancient walled garden, hemmed in by giant cypress trees. In the garden there are many paths. One leads to Mary’s studio, another to an underground part of the Shop, known as the Caverns…. Beyond this, is the room for the gigantic etching press where the artist spends most of her time.
Mary Aubrey Keating (1894-1953) described her fellow artist in Keating’s 1935 guide, San Antonio: Interesting Places in San Antonio and Where to Find Them.
WHEREAS, A native of the American Southwest and the Sonoran Desert region of Mexico, the prickly pear cactus provided nourishment to the earliest inhabitants of those regions, and both the sweet, fleshy fruit and the broad, flat stems were incorporated into tasty dishes; and
WHEREAS, Tunas, the prickly pear fruit, and nopales, which are made from the stem, have since become staples of the Mexican diet, and their growing popularity in Lone Star cuisine can be attributed to Texans’ appreciation for unusual and distinctive foods; and….
WHEREAS, This adaptable plant can survive under many different environmental conditions, and thus can be found from the hill country of Central Texas to the windswept plateaus and arid mountains of West Texas; because it thrives in a harsh climate that few plants can bear, the prickly pear cactus is often grown as forage for cattle and has had a tremendous positive impact on the vital Texas cattle industry; and
WHEREAS, Rugged, versatile, and uniquely beautiful, the prickly pear cactus has made numerous contributions to the landscape, cuisine, and character of the Lone Star State, and thus it is singularly qualified to represent the indomitable and proud Texas spirit as an official state symbol; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 74th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby designate the prickly pear cactus as the official state plant of Texas.
Viewed from the east side of the San Antonio River, the graceful arch indeed appears a portal to pathways on the other side. But Mel Chin‘s “CoCobijos” changes appearance as you approach and circle it.
Commissioned by the San Antonio River Foundation to link the Mission Reach of the river to nearby Mission San Jose, the massive steel sculpture represents the pads of two arching prickly pears joined together.
One: “I was looking at the roofs of the mission and I found that there was a whole planting of them, a bunch of them that have been growing there since the 1930s.”
Two: “After visiting the site… I noticed how hot I was.”
And since: “There’s nothing stronger than the state plant of Texas, I believe.”
Now: “There’s two of them coming together to create a shelter from the sun and a habitat for live cactus growing above.”
According to the San Antonio River Foundation website, Chin reflected about the resiliency of prickly pear and how the plant historically has nurtured people and animals. The lacey steel picado patterns echo the internal structure of nopal pads.
About the same time “CoCobijos” was unveiled in this semi-rural setting, according to Glasstire, Chin was taking over Times Square and several other spots in New York City with multimedia works portraying frightening potential results if global warming is allowed to continue into the future uncontrolled.
The New York installations are gone, but you need only head south from downtown along the San Antonio River to view Chin’s masterful piece of public art now a permanent part of San Antonio’s landscape.
Time out. I wandered around Rome for almost three weeks before it hit me in the face, just as we were about to exit the Diocletian Baths. The sculpture above, the photo included in the prior post, did it.
I had been viewing remnants of ancient Rome in black and white, completing forgetting photographs in magazine and newspaper articles about exhibitions making the rounds in the United States a decade ago. The ancient Etruscans, the ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans – they had no inhibitions about applying color to their art. We have been brought up in an art world dominated by the influence of Renaissance artists reviving classical sculpture using the whitest of marble.
But we can guess that Phidias would be brokenhearted to see his sacred relics dragged so far from home, in such a fractured state. More to the point, the bare stone would look ravaged to him, even cadaverous.
Listen to Helen of Troy, in the Euripides play that bears her name:
My life and fortunes are a monstrosity,
Partly because of Hera, partly because of my beauty.
If only I could shed my beauty and assume an uglier aspect
The way you would wipe color off a statue.
That last point is so unexpected, one might almost miss it: to strip a statue of its color is actually to disfigure it.
I was still processing this concept as we wandered through the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Guilia (more to come later), where we encountered a couple reclining on their sarcophagus, circa 500+ years B.C. The accompanying text mentioned that the “twin” to this housed in the Louvre actually shows remnants of colors.
National Etruscan Museum in Rome
Louvre in Paris
But the Louvre couple (on the right) still does not burst into a full technicolor-type bloom. Based on decades of work by Vinzenz Brinkmann of the Glyptothek Museum in Munich, Germany, replicas of ancient statues colorized are probably as shocking to our senses as people accustomed to black-and-white films almost 80 years ago felt in theatres viewing the vividly bright yellow brick road in the midst of The Wizard of Oz.
This Carsten Muller video for Capitol City Media Design helps somewhat with visualizing the changes:
I got on an absurd jag in Rome of photographing statues of lions (more later). They are everywhere. I am so conditioned to thinking of them from a monochromatic perspective, I never once pictured the ancient ones in what to me is amusement-park merry-go-round colors, as is this reproduction of a Greek lion Brinkmann uses in exhibitions.
lion on a tub in the Diocletian Baths
reproduction of lion from Loutraki, Stiftung Archäologie, Munich
Color changes our perceptions about ancient civilizations. But ouch, with the following description in mind, would you really want to see the featured relief of Mithras or the statue of Mithras pictured below fully restored in color?
But my imagination fails to make the Crayola transition on its own. My color-blinders remain in place unless confronted by the images side by side.
Which brings me back around to San Antonio. And her missions. The Native Americans herded into the flocks of the Spanish friars nearly three centuries ago were not monochrome in their tastes.
Years back, I rudely shoved through a motion at a San Antonio Conservation Society board meeting for the society to go on record supporting “colorizing” the outside of one mission the way the Native Americans originally did. The not-well-thought-out motion probably still languishes at the bottom of a list of active motions.
I would withdraw it now in favor of a different approach. Illuminate the facades of Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose often and on a regular basis, if only for an hour at a time right after sunset to show for those of us who stand colorblind in front of these incredible landmarks failing to envision the imprint of our Native American population on them, and, by extension, the city San Antonio has become.
The City of San Antonio has worked several times now with the San Antonio Missions National Park to spotlight the missions “Restored by Light.” The photograph on the left of Mission Concepcion colorized was taken by Bonnie Arbitter and appeared in The Rivard Report, September 8, 2017. Scott Ball took the second one of Mission San Jose that appeared in The Rivard Report, September 6, 2017.
Mission Concepcion by Bonnie Arbitter for The Rivard Report
Mission San Jose by Scott Ball for The Rivard Report
Please let the light shine on these more often.
Meanwhile, this unimaginative soul will return to viewing Roman antiquities in monochromatic tones. Am hoping your imagination adds a richness to the palette where applicable.