El Dia de los Muertos
Cliff Gallery at Mountain View College
Through November 9, 2012
For several years the Art Department at Mountain View College has sponsored a celebration of El Dia de los Muertos. This year Tina Medina, an artist and professor of visual arts at Mountain View decided to curate a professional exhibit to complement the work the students produced. She chose Jose Vargas and Jessica Salazar McBride to be the first artists to showcase their work celebrating the day of the dead. The exhibition is located in the college’s Cliff Gallery.
I attended the artist’s reception this past Thursday. Although Jessica wasn’t able to attend the reception, I was fortunate to be able to speak to Jose about his paintings. Right away you’ll notice the theme – guitars and the musicians that play them.
South Texas Blues is a remembrance of a blues trio Jose heard play years ago. It was a father & two sons and the lead guitar player would get on a riff throwing his head back channeling the vibrations. Before he was approached about doing this show, Jose had already decided to paint this unknown guitar god as a skeleton.
Jose curates the yearly Bath House Cultural Center’s El Corazon exhibit. I noticed that he has used the heart in several of his paintings so I was wondering what the image meant to him. The heart he uses in his work comes from the Mexican board game loteria. When he first saw the bright red bleeding heart, number 27; it just stuck in his mind as a powerful image and he continues to use it.
In addition to the splendid canvasses, Jose has done some beautiful paintings on actual guitars. Rock Daddy is an homage to the early 60’s “combos.” That era was crowded with foursomes in matching suits and ties like The Beatles so this piece is a dedication to those bands.
Jose has a wonderful canvas that is an homage to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Like so many Texans, Stevie holds a powerful influence on Jose who actually knew him in the days before Stevie became a big star. Jose, knowing how much Stevie liked Tolbert’s chili would take a container of the Texas soul food to the concert & leave the bag on the stage while Stevie was playing. The name of the canvas is Turn It Up which is also based on a personal memory. The bar owner was getting complaints about the noise while the band was playing, so he’d come turn the speakers down. Stevie finally had enough of that so he turned the knob all the way up & then super glued it so it couldn’t be turned down again.
Jessica’s piece Andando Con Mi Perrito is a charming sculpture of a fellow walking his dog. She works in paper mache here by first creating the shape or form, applying paper pulp, air drying and then sanding the piece then applying the base colors. Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley in a small farming community surrounded by open spaces and citrus groves helped fuel her keen interest in the natural world. Creating Dia De Los Muertos masks and small sculptures started out as a way of celebrating the holiday, but following the death of her father in 2005 her art became more of a personal form of healing and since then she’s completely embraced the holiday.
I asked Tina Medina what was it about Jose and Jessica’s work that made her decide on them as the first artists she wanted to show at Mountain View for El Dia De Los Muertos.
Tina said,”Jessica Salazar McBride and Jose Vargas are two artists I selected because their work recalls that traditional sense of Mexican satire, with their own artistic flair of expression. The calacas, (skeleton characters), they portray in their work can be particular individuals living within our society, and they can also be the iconic symbol of the season. Jessica’s work speaks of tradition while using newer materials. Although her work references the old ways, the viewer might notice subtle undercurrents of American pop cultural imagery. Jose’s paintings are reminiscent of folk artists, whose sincerity and skill are seen as fresh and honest. His use of the guitar as canvas adds to the already obvious satire in his work. The guitar as painting is the vessel that used to play, but has also now become the ultimate sacrifice to create beauty.”
Tina also worked with the art club to assemble an ofrende. Painting students also created posters for the Day of the Dead celebration at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center.
The El Dia de los Muertos exhibit is located in Mountain View’s Cliff Gallery until November 9, 2012.
To locate the Cliff Gallery enter the parking lot from Duncanville Road. Park near Building S – follow the path to the left around Building S through the picnic area. Enter the doors go through the big room called the Treetop Lounge – veer to the right & the Cliff Gallery is down a short flight of stairs. There is a lift for persons unable to negotiate the stairs. Just Let David Kirkland know you need assistance. Normal gallery hours for the Fall 2012 Semester: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Wednesdays 2:00 – 7:00 p.m. The Cliff Gallery is also open to individuals and classes by appointment.