San Antonio artist Lindsey Hurd transforms found objects into ephemeral masterpieces

Hurd's debut exhibition 'Still Life' opens at Mercury Project on Sept. 2.

click to enlarge Left to right: Lindsey Hurd's Asshole, Manalive and Stages III. - Courtesy Photos / Lindsey Hurd
Courtesy Photos / Lindsey Hurd
Left to right: Lindsey Hurd's Asshole, Manalive and Stages III.

Impermanence is an inescapable aspect of existence and, sadly, one of life's only guarantees.

"Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it," English author William Somerset Maugham once wrote.

Buddhist doctrine posits that the acceptance of impermanence — often equated to "the philosophical problem of change" — is one of the primary steps to spiritual enlightenment.

Impermanence is also a conceptual touchstone for emerging San Antonio artist Lindsey Hurd, who takes captivating photographs of arrangements she creates from found objects — many of which have a short shelf life.

Although Hurd's large-scale photograph Growth Patterns was recently showcased in one of the Mokara Hotel & Spa's windows as part of a collaboration between Contemporary Art Month (CAM) and Centro San Antonio's public program Art Everywhere, she's arguably better recognized as one of the stylish staffers of Little Death Wine Bar than for her creative endeavors.

That may shift with the Sept. 2 opening of "Still Life," Hurd's debut exhibition. Hosted by Mercury Project and organized by CAM Executive Director Roberta "Nina" Hassele as part of Fotoseptiembre, the show assembles more than 20 of Hurd's distinctive photographs along with a selection of paintings by her partner, fellow San Antonio artist Benjamin McVey.

A Fort Worth native who grew up in an ultra-conservative household, Hurd went from good girl to black sheep when she decided to start living life on her own terms rather than those of her parents.

"That was a hugely shaping experience for me in my teenage years," Hurd told the Current during a recent interview. "Disagreeing with them was like breaking out of a cult ... [and] it was just me wanting to make normal life decisions."

Those life decisions eventually involved relocating to San Antonio in 2007 with her now ex-husband, with whom she shares four sons. By 2020, the pandemic had taken hold and Hurd's marriage was unraveling. Around this time she began working with photography, a medium she'd experimented with in her youth.

After her children grew weary of posing for her, she turned to capturing flowers in increasing stages of decay and finally happened upon the format she's working with today — photographing flat-lay still lifes built around objects she finds during strolls along the River Walk.

click to enlarge Lindsey Hurd's Tiny Acorns. - Courtesy Photo / Lindsey Hurd
Courtesy Photo / Lindsey Hurd
Lindsey Hurd's Tiny Acorns.

Hurd lays out rusty nails, waxy leaves, tiny eggs discarded from nests, decaying insects, wildflowers and hollow crab legs left behind by herons on watercolor paper in patterns that feel riddled with symbolism. To add further intrigue, she mixes in previously collected treasures and rosettes she handcrafts in the vein of prize ribbons.

A winning example of these tableaux involves vivid butterfly wings, wilting flower petals, a plastic dinosaur and a cicada carcass surrounding a red rosette Hurd embroidered with "Bad Bitch Award."

"Ribbons historically [represent] first place. It's a very hierarchical system that they fit in — you've done the best job so you get first prize," Hurd said. "But the prizes don't really matter at our death — everything falls away. But the experiences that we go through in our life that make us the people that we are, those are never the events that anyone gives you a ribbon for. [It could be] some terrible thing that happened to you ... but it changes you in a way that's important. So I've been thinking of the ribbons as a way to set aside space for those moments in life."

Another standout from "Still Life" employs giant sticker burs, feathers, flowers, weathered screws and bottle caps to accentuate an unlikely centerpiece: a playing card one of her children scrawled the word "asshole" on.

"I like to include things that they've been a part of when I can," Hurd said with a laugh.

In keeping with the ephemeral nature of her time-sensitive arrangements, Hurd frequently shares her photographs on Instagram with what's become her signature hashtag: #objectsofimpermanence.

"I was thinking a lot about my own impermanence and was at a place in life where everything felt so unsettled that I could only live moment to moment," Hurd said of the tag's origin. "I think on some level I knew that's how a flower lives, or a branch that falls from a tree, or a nail that is discarded and rusting away: it can only be. But when you take these objects and arrange them into patterns, they're transformed, even in death or abandonment, into something that shines."

"Still Life," Opening reception 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, on view by appointment through Sept. 30, Mercury Project, 538 Roosevelt Ave., mercuryproject.net.

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