A pair of Marys’ distinctive impressions of city landmarks

bonner keating concepcion

Above, Mission Concepcion de la Purisma by Mary Bonner (left) and by Mary Aubrey Keating (right)

‘I had always dabbled a little in artistic things in a sort of boarding school fashion, but I had certainly never taken anything I had done very seriously.’

Mary Bonner (1887-1935) in a 1926 interview by Penelope Border in the San Antonio Express

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.
Continue reading “A pair of Marys’ distinctive impressions of city landmarks”

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Six

steves homestead

Above, Johanna Steves rocks in front of her home on King William Street. The Steves Homestead is now a House Museum owned by The Conservation Society of San Antonio and is well worth touring.

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Five

Emma Bentzen Koehler, May 1911

Sophie Wahrmund clasps her hands together over her heart. “After Papa’s funeral, I couldn’t bring myself to think of leaving all the family in Fredericksburg. I started weeping the minute they started playing ‘Oh Fair, Oh Sweet, Oh Holy!’ and didn’t stop dabbing at my eyes until we pulled up to the front door. Yet here I am, thoroughly wrapped up in this wedding. How can one so rapidly leap from the depths of despair to a state of bliss? My tears of mourning have been replaced by those of joy.”

“Nothing helps heal loss like births or weddings, Sophie.”

The fireflies are beginning to flicker as servants wander through the yard lighting candles at all the tables. Over Sophie’s shoulder, Emma catches a glimpse of her husband on the dance floor. She smiles. Otto’s partner is none other than the groom’s grandmother, Johanna Steves. While Otto does do a turn or two or more with some of the prettiest women in town, he always takes care to alternate them with the oldest widows available at any social occasion. “And your Jennie just looks positively radiant in that green.”

Continue reading “An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Six”

Preserving the Art of ‘Papel Picado’

The American translation I grew up with is hardly picturesque – brightly colored plastic triangles strung along roadways, noisily flapping in the breeze in vain attempts to motivate you to “stop here for gas” or “trade in your car today.”  But, as with many humble or utilitarian objects in Mexico, banners were elevated to a form of art and signified celebrations important to the community.  Papel picado, or punched paper, artists use hammer and chisel to punch designs out of stacks of up to 40 layers of tissue at a time.

As part of the San Antonio Conservation Society’s celebration of Historic Preservation Month, a display of papel picado, or punched paper, by artist Kathleen Trenchard is on exhibit in the Visitors Center of The Steves Homestead.  While her work includes traditional papel picado banners, Kathleen’s contemporary interpretation of the art form includes portraits, buildings and major public art installations – at the AT&T Center, the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center and the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  Kathleen also designed the official Fiesta pin for the Conservation Society’s major fundraiser, A Night in Old San Antonio, or NIOSA.

The legendary printmaker and satirical cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) created his oft-reproduced “La Calavera Catrina” to satirize the lifestyle of the upper class in Mexico in the late 1800s.  In one of the works on exhibit at the Steves’ Visitors Center, Kathleen crafts a skeletal “self-portrait” as a dancing partner of La Catrina.  

“Portraits” of architectural landmarks featured in the exhibit include the Bexar County Courthouse, the Japanese Tea Garden, the silos at Blue Star and the Pig Stand.  The one must suitable for the cause of preservation follows the satirical style of Posada:  “Demolition:  1123 Brooklyn.”

In recognition of her artistic perpetuation of this form of Mexican folk art, the Conservation Society will bestow its Lynn Ford Craftsman Award upon Kathleen at its Historic Preservation Awards Dinner on Friday, May 14.  The Conservation Society established the award in 1978 in honor of Lynn Ford, a craftsman, cabinetmaker, builder and teacher.

Preserving the Art of Papel Picado will be on display at the Visitors Center located behind The Edward Steves Homestead and House Museum, 509 King William Street, through June.  The Visitors Center and Museum are open daily, but hours vary depending on scheduled tours.  For more information, telephone 210.225.5924.

Tickets for the Conservation Society’s Awards Dinner are $75 for individuals or $600 for a table of eight.  For reservations, telephone 210.224.6163.  To find out information about other Preservation Month activities, visit www.saconservation.org.

So what could the “prodigious poster” learn from a form of art where what is eliminated paints the picture?  Cut.

Added on May 3:  Great article on the area of Puebla known for papel amate