Artist Foundation unleashes another round of creative fervor…

zach-dorn-puppetry

A city teeming with talent. Artists whose creative juices flow constantly, filling them with visionary dreams of projects that will enrich our lives.

If…. If only they had a boost of support. A grant of $5,000 can jumpstart a project, freeing the artist to complete it and share the finished product.

This is what the Artist Foundation of San Antonio, a nonprofit organization founded by Bettie Ward and Patricia Pratchett, does. And does well.

Since 2006, the Artist Foundation has granted 102 artists residing in Bexar County $570,000. And the Artist Foundation recently completed another round of awards.

zach-dorn-performingZach Dorn, self-described as “a theater artist who aims to rediscover the suspension of disbelief from the six year-old within all of us and use it to reexamine life as an adult,” received both the Alan Beckstead Award for Original Production and the Tobin Grand Prize for Artistic Excellence.

Dorn writes:

This delicate resuscitation of the audience’s imaginative spirit has invoked the use of puppetry, live cinematic experimentations, fast-paced storytelling techniques, and reinvention…. Like unruly children, my ideas rebel against traditional performance techniques. My live puppet productions have moved away from conventional staging by transforming entire theater spaces into new and unfamiliar worlds.

Support from the Artist Foundation arrives atop earlier seed money Dorn received from The Jim Henson Foundation, and we will not need to wait long to appreciate the results. An Excruciatingly Ordinary Toy Theater Show will be presented by S.M.A.R.T. and Miniature Curiosa at their new Toy Theater Parlor inside 1906 South Flores at 8 p.m. on March 20, 21, 27 and 28; and April 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18.

 

last-skin

 

 

Poet Barbara Ras received the Department for Culture and Creative Development Award for Literary Arts. Recently published collections of her poetry include One Hidden Stuff and The Last Skin.

In an online “conversation” on Granta, Ras offers this description of poetry:

Poetry, like all creativity, is an antidote to despair. Even the darkest poems are beautiful. For me, poetry is the only way to express what seems to me to be the essential quest: searching in the dark for answers to questions that are unanswerable.

Ras, the director of Trinity University Press, will read selections from The Last Skin during an evening of poetry beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, at The Twig, 306 Pearl Parkway.

stephen-gaethThe Department for Culture and Creative Development Award for Choreography will assist Stephan A. Gaeth, a founder of The Uptown Studio on Fredericksburg Road, in his efforts to:

…broaden my choreographic horizons by challenging myself to mix genres and styles and learn new ones, while creating and directing the plot and themes of the show.

Expect to see and hear more of Daniela Riojas, a vocalist and autoharp player with Femina-X, who received the Department for Culture and Creative Development Award for Media Arts.

 

The artistic statement for the “avant-garde power-pop band,” reads:

Using a blend of electronic beats, atmosphere, and foundational live instruments, the music stems from a hunger to evolve and merge magic with blues, trip-hop, jungle, and pop. Through a primal-meets-modern hybrid of machine and (wo)man, it actively hones in on the colorful space between any and all labels, while creating unconventional fusions – taking from sounds of nature, ancestors, electricity, modernity, and visions of ecstatic living.

Known for his mastery of danceable Latin-infused yet experimental beats, Alex Scheel from local psych-rock band, Pop Pistol…. conducts electronic programming while skillfully toggling from voice to guitar to laptop…. Jeff Palacios, deepens the overall landscape with the unique task of being a rhythmic yet melodic counterpart to the electronic bass and sub-bass movements. Chris Cooper humanizes quantized beats with frenetic poly-rhythms and four-on-the-floor power. Daniela”s chameleon voice has the range to both coo and siren, lull and frighten, always reaching from a place of passion, imagination, and child-like playfulness….

With a 2014-15 season that includes singing with Opera National de Paris, the San Francisco Opera, the Greensboro Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, Erich René Barbera still thinks of San Antonio as his hometown. The only artist to ever receive three top awards at Placido Domingo’s Operalia in Moscow in one year, the winner of  the TNT Award for Classical Singing is eager to expose children in San Antonio “to such a wonderful art form and encourage them to pursue their dreams like so many others encouraged me to follow mine….”

 

The Founders Award for Music Composition went to a faculty member of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Matthew Dunne. A frequent collaborator with The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, he has recorded three compact discs: Forget the Alamo, Music in the Mission and The Accidental Trio. Dunne’s grant will help him embark on his first film score project.

 

"The everlasting light bulb," 2014 painting/performance by Christie Blizard

“The everlasting light bulb,” 2014 painting/performance by Christie Blizard

Another professor at UTSA, Christie Blizard received the Rick Liberto Award for Visual Arts. The artist writes:

Much of my work is about exploring the space between painting and interventionist practices. These two fields are usually at odds, but I find it to be a rich pairing to negotiate new contexts, humor, and poetry.

"H," 2014 graphite on paper by Fernando Andrade

“H,” 2014 graphite on paper by Fernando Andrade

Graphic designer Fernando Andrade received the Linda Pace Foundation Award for Contemporary Art. The artist’s abstract paintings “deal with human emotions,” while his drawings often reflect social issues.

His Jugando a la Guerrita series of drawings:

…depicts a combination between my upbringing and adulthood memories in regard to the violence (of northern Mexico) and how it has corrupted society…. Through the images here, I hope to show a glimpse into the life of children growing up around violence and the emotions like revenge and anger that those children are likely to take into the adult world.

 

"God of Carnage," set design by Jeremiah Teutsch

“God of Carnage,” set design by Jeremiah Teutsch

The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund Awards went to Jeremiah Teutsch in the category of set design and Marcus Cerda for costume design. Teutsch describes his recent focus:

Most of my subject matter of late has been on the topic of and the consideration of death and terminality, and how society moves itself around the nasty business of dealing with the dead and the emotions that are inherent in regarding someone else’s mortality. This common fiber is present in my paintings, sculptures and, more recently, my set designs. It is my goal, in life and in art, to figure out what in the hell is going on.

"Dancer in Red" by Marcus A. Cerda

“Dancer in Red” by Marcus A. Cerda

Cerda’s recent work merges his background in the classical concepts of fashion design with his collage style of synthetic cubist paintings. He explains:

This convergence is applied by creating asymmetrical patterns and drapery to express the human body in a nonconforming and lyrical style. An intricate dialogue where each house has its own agenda but cannot help to feed off the other yet neither can successfully consume the other. Thus, the art for the human form is derived from – inspired by – dictated to – and produced with a strong sense of the radical non-conformist of the individual.

An incredible array of talent is represented by these San Antonio artists. To support the efforts of the Artist Foundation to enable artists to pursue their dream projects, visit the foundation’s website.

The Tragic Rule of Maximilian and Carlota in Mexico

Empress Carlota and Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, circa 1864, from the Lusher Collection and included in exhibit at the Witte Museum February 1 through March 30

Empress Carlota and Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, circa 1864, from the Lusher Collection and included in exhibit at the Witte Museum February 1 through March 30

City of Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 10, 3 p.m., 1867 – Yesterday morning Col. Paulino Gomez Lanadrid, commanding 700 reinforcements of Imperial troops sent to succor the besieged garrison at Cuernavaca, was killed near that place during an attack by a body of Liberals, who were lying in ambuscade….

More than 500 families, mostly Mochos and French, will leave here on the 20th with 4,000 French troops….

Maximilian is waiting for the last French soldier to leave. The shadow of the last of the expeditionary corps will not be lost sight of by the Archduke, who is now residing in a humble house between here and the Castle of Chapultepec.

The New York Times

And so, Maximilian, the falling emperor of Mexico, awaited his fate.

"Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico" by Edouard Manet, 1868

“Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico” by Edouard Manet, 1868 (not part of exhibit at the Witte)

The French installation of the Archduke Maximilian and his Belgian-born wife Charlotte to reign over the politically unstable Mexico of 1864 was bound not to end well. But the story is a rich one of international intrigue on both sides of the Atlantic.

m-and-c-galley-coverAs Trinity University Press prepares to release Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico by Mary Margaret McAllen, the Witte Museum is opening a companion exhibit, “Maximilian and Carlota: Last Empire in Mexico,” focusing on the fascinating lives of the ill-fated royal couple. The exhibit of portraits, photographs and artifacts opens on February 1, while the author will read from her book and be available to sign copies during a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 8, at The Twig Book Shop.

Fell in love a few year’s ago with C.M. Mayo’s masterful novel, The Last Prince of the Mexico Empire, focusing on a child caught up in the political turmoil – Principe Agustin de Iturbide y Green. A Library Journal review in 2009 perhaps summarizes the complexities involved most succinctly:

Once upon a time, there was a little half-American boy who briefly became heir to the Mexican throne—until his distraught parents sued the doomed Emperor Maximilian for his return.

I highly recommend Mayo’s book, and am looking forward to reading McAllen’s. And if these and the exhibit leave you thirsting for even more glimpses into the lives of Maximilian and Carlota, Mayo maintains an ongoing blog Maximilian ~ Carlota, described as “resources for researchers of the tumultuous period of Mexican history known as the Second Empire, or ‘French Intervention.'”

I’m hoping one of the two authors will suddenly contact me with a sliver of information (a very unlikely record to stumble upon, so am certainly not holding my breath) about a San Antonio connection to the royal rulers. Among the Austro-Hungarians enlisted to serve in support of their reign in Mexico was Baron George Ritter von Tomasini (1818-1912). As the Second Empire of Mexico collapsed, Tomasini and his wife made their way to New Orleans and to San Antonio by 1872. Here, they joined the community of dairy farmers at the Coker Settlement, about which I am writing a book for the Coker Cemetery Association. Geographically, the heart of the Tomasini farm was located where the cluster of shops and restaurants known as The Alley on Bitters are found today.

Eva and George Tomasini, photo from www.thealleyonbitters.com

Eva and George Tomasini, photo from http://www.thealleyonbitters.com

February 3, 2014, Update: Read Steve Bennett’s review of McAllen’s book in the San Antonio Express-News

March 19, 2014, Update: David Martin Davies will moderate a discussion with McAllen from 10 to 10:45 a.m. in the Story Room on the 3rd floor of the Central Library during the San Antonio Book Festival on Saturday, April 5.

January 5, 2016, Update: C.M. Mayo has posted a podcast of a conversation with McAllen recorded in The Twig in October 2015.

An Intimidating Week to Release a Book

The week started off with the head of Trinity Press, Barbara Ras, reading from The Last Skin at The Twig Book Shop.  Then there was the San Antonio Public Library Foundation’s spectacular Copyright Texas Dinner last night featuring the dynamic Carl Hiaasen.  His Star Island is populated with celebrities and paparazzi; there are drugs, sex and the excitement of a kidnapping.  Hiaasen’s book even has a sensational trailer. 

The stimulating journals of Anita Brenner, a young American Bohemian living in Mexico City amongst artists such as Frida and Diego, will be unveiled at the Instituto de Mexico in HemisFair Park at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 18, and then Saturday brings David Sedaris to town.

With so many important literary events this week, how can I possibly convince you to come out to The Twig at 5 p.m. tonight to celebrate the publishing of Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park – a book with no drugs, sex or celebrities? 

Think of it as an intervention.  How could you leave me there alone with a case of wine?  And how about the music of Hank Harrison and the Lone Star Swingbillies in full cowboy regalia and the opportunity to support the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy? 

Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker certainly was no Cherry Pye, but that’s not a bad thing.  She was homegrown and reflects a part of our agricultural heritage we tend to forget. 

Hope to see you tonight at 5, or better call a cab for me.

Update on November 17:  Thanks to everyone who protected me by coming to share the wine!

The Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund is donating 60 percent of the cover price of books sold during the November 16 celebration at The Twig Book Store to the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy, which kept the former mayor smiling. (photo by Kathy Babb)

Update on November 27:  “Urban Spotlight” blogger focuses on the celebration at The Twig….