Taking a stroll on the crafty side

It could not have been a better night for First Friday attendees — a nice breeze was in the air and the crowds were fairly calm (with the exception of a mini-scene at the bridge of South Alamo where a Ron Paul supporter was being arrested). Though the streets were bustling, as usual, during the monthly art stroll, most flocked in herds for the big show of the night — Say Sí’s Muertitos Fest. The Art Capades unknowingly followed a procession led by Los Monas drum and dance group to the locale, where folk art was in abundance.

As we walked into Say Sí we were overwhelmed by the strong aroma of incense. The fragrance set an inviting mood that complemented the scene: People walked around adorned in black from head-to-toe, their faces painted as skeletons, and an array of activities were scheduled. We took in a shadow play performed by students from Brackenridge High School, an adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales’ “The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale.” The intimate performance made for a great experience for any first-time visitor to the new building.

After taking a day to rest, Art Capades hit up the neighborhood Uptown Art Stroll, held south of Basse road in the Olmos Park Terrace area. More than 20 artists opened their doors for patrons to visit their studios, and in some cases, view their actual working environment.

One of the first houses we visited was Hank Drennon’s studio, Milagros del Rio Brazos Pottery; his highly functional, decorated, and colorful
ceramic ware combines traditional talavera designs (wares from Mexico, direct descendents of Spain’s Moorish wares) with a contemporary motif. Drennon uses a glazing process that produces maiolica, or tin-glazed pottery. In one of his works, “When it Rains II,” a young girl,
reminiscent of the Morton salt icon, is designed in the form of colorful swirls. His use of rich colors and freehand design put him in a league of his own. His work included ceramic plates, cups, and mugs, with a few print works also on display.

Down the street, Anel I. Flores and a few friends gathered at her house for a collection of artwork, photography, stationery, and crochet. One of Flores’s standout pieces, “Main Street,” carries a strong message about “police brutality” within the LGBT community — done in a collage form, images of gay-friendly clubs down Main Street such as The Heat and The Saint are featured along with a cop car, a bruised victim, and a Main Street staple following a night out at the clubs — the taco stand.

“We go to the bar and drink, drink, drink, and get into trouble,” says Flores. “This is just part of my life.” The local LGBT culture is known for its club life, she says, and with her series dedicated to the community she portrays the messages of “violence and bliss.”

A yet-to-be-completed garage houses Hank Auderer’s photography. His images — previously featured in Notations in Mexico, a 2006 show held at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico — consists of scenic Mexico valleys and mountains that are captured in a desolate fashion. About 14 black-and-white prints were on display, including one color piece, a fuchsia-heavy work possibly taken at a quaint taqueria complete with a small table with a red-checkered cloth. Across the block, Barbara Johnson was also showing a collection of hand-tinted black-and-white
photographs as well as beadwork done by Bead for Life, a non-profit co-op of women in Uganda. The beadwork was very simple, and reasonably priced, and paired with one of Johnson’s almost surreal images makes a great take-home gift set.

Diana Kersey invited her Rock Paper Scissors colleagues to present their work at her home. Rhonda Kuhlman, known by many for her eclectic found-art collages made with candy wrappers, tin cans, and thrift items, was on-hand to tell patrons how she finds her items to create her masterpieces. Her bottle-top art was on display, in necklaces, bracelets, and hair pins. Another Rock Paper Scissors member, Jane Bishop, creates one-of-a-kind scarves, wearables, furniture, and linens. A handful of furniture (enough to fit on the driveway of Johnson’s already jam-packed lot) was displayed. “Spring Fling” is an antique hand-carved wood loveseat with two pillows and hand-dyed linen. Kinsey, a ceramic artist, presented boldly colored works rich in character (her work features a lot of Dia de los Muertos-inspired figures) and purpose; her featured work included a cake and business-card holders along with individual tiles for sale.

Vanessa Centeno’s work, on display at Celine Thomasson’s home, was very much in the vein of Pop Art, with one work inspired by Warhol’s “Flowers,” but using mixed media. Another mixed-media follower whose works were part of the stroll was Jorge Garza. Remember those popular inspirational phrases that were used in the late ’90s on paperweights, posters, and other office-related accessories? Garza takes a rather eccentric spin on that with his work — the word “believe” is used throughout, with various milagros, or small religious charms, attached to his pieces. He uses many found pieces in his work, as well.

Art Capades gives credit to event planners who have finally decided to host art strolls during the fall months — kudos to those that care about the well-being of local art lovers. Although this past weekend was hot, it was not nearly as bad as the summer months. Here’s looking forward to next First Friday (will we need a cute matching scarf and beanie in December?) and next year’s Uptown Art Stroll.

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