April 21, 2008 at 3:44 am Leave a comment

gallery artwork

Jessa Lauren Hollett / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

Everywhere you look in this white-walled art gallery, there are hearts. They are mostly made of wood and close to the same size, painted, deconstructed, decoupaged. One depicts a rooster made of construction paper, another the skewed artistic crayon scribbles of a very young artist.

Another depicts a marker-drawn cartoon of a Spanish proverb: “Panza llena… Corazón contento.” The heart next to it provides a rough translation: “The way to a person’s heart… Is through the stomach.” Some are painted, covered in photos of menacing medieval gargoyles, torn fishnet tights, or a tiny brick wall breaking to show the heart inside. They are all different, made by different artists from school age to established local artists. And they are all for sale.

Each of these mini masterpieces is part of a fundraiser called “Toma Mi Corazón XVI” (Take My Heart 16), which every year raises money for La Peña Art Gallery on South Congress. The only thing that all the artists have in common is that they are all Hispanic.

“La Peña isn’t just an art gallery, it’s a meeting place,” Artistic Director David Gutierrez said. “We try to provide a space for art in all its forms: music, poetry, visual arts. It’s more about preserving and celebrating our culture than it is about selling art.”

La Peña is one of many art galleries in Austin whose mission is to provide a place for artists and subjects that might sometimes get overlooked in major galleries. La Peña’s focus is on the work of Latino artists and musicians from the Austin area and works based on Latino themes, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe or Chichen Itza.

Two blocks north of La Peña is the MexicArte museum, where the art is not for sale but still a celebration of Hispanic culture. The museum provides a space for local artists and traveling exhibitions to show their work to visitors. They also specialize in the work of Hispanic artists and art that reflects themes of the Hispanic experience.

“It’s an opportunity for people and works that normally wouldn’t be in the mainstream to have their day,” Production Manager Angel Quesada said. “They need a place where they can bloom.”

MexicArte is currently featuring a traveling exhibit from Mexico called La Caja, showcasing the work of some of the biggest names in Mexican art. The exhibit contains several full-sized pieces, as well as a mini-museum with tiny artistic works by the same artists on display in a dollhouse-sized mini museum. As a response to this show, miniature works by several local artists are also on display in a back gallery of MexicArte.

Women and Their Work Art Space, though it focuses on the work of women and not specifically Latinas, was also founded to give non-mainstream art a home.

“Nowadays, all of these galleries that used to be known as ‘alternative art spaces’ have become institutionalized themselves,” Executive Director Chris Cowden said. “But they are still necessary, because there still is such a disparity in mainstream galleries. It’s better than it used to be, but these galleries are still necessary to keep it fair.”

To this day, with a few exceptions, work by white male artists sells for more money than work by minorities.

“The sad truth is that the art world has historically been dominated by white males,” Cowden said. “Places like this gallery were created out of necessity. Without them, so much talent was going tragically unheeded. That’s why they’re still necessary today.”

Some of the most recent statistics show that though there are more women than men graduating from art school, the majority of full-time artists are male, Cowden said.

“It’s just a sad truth of our society,” she said. “Everyone, including us, has said that it’s gotten so much better since the days when art history books as a rule only included the work of white males. But it’s still such a problem. And if we didn’t know, who would know?”

Entry filed under: March 2008 issue. Tags: , .


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