It was time for Miss CAM Antonio to go.
Participation in the competition to wear the Contemporary Art Month crown had waned the past couple of years, “so we decided to retire it,” said Chris Sauter, co-chair of the CAM board.
That’s just one and — with apologies to anyone who aspired to the artist-made crown — probably the least important change to the month-long celebration of the city’s thriving art scene. CAM, which includes exhibits, art-related events and a studio crawl, officially begins March 2 with a kickoff party at Blue Star Contemporary.
The board organizes the CAM online calendar and puts on a handful of signature events, chiefly the CAM Perennial, an exhibit of works by San Antonio artists selected by curator brought in from a partnering city and CAMX, an exchange that pairs an artist-run space from the same city as the CAM Perennial curator with a local artist-run space.
For Sauter, the best new feature is a revamped CAMMIE Awards. In the past, awards presented in various categories all were decided by popular vote. This year, the board has tapped seven arts institutions -- the San Antonio Museum of Art, the McNay Art Museum, the Southwest School of Art, Blue Star Contemporary, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, the Carver Community Cultural Center and Artpace -- to each present an award.
Contemporary Art Month officially opens with a kick-off party 6-9 p.m. March 2 at Blue Star Contemporary in the Blue Star Arts Complex, then it’s off to the races for contemporary art fans. For a full calendar of events go to contemporaryartmonth.com. Meanwhile, here are some highlights to put on your must list.
“Pretty Hurts”: Former San Antonio resident Wesley Harvey borrowed a title from Beyoncé for his show of new ceramic sculpture and collage works. The exhibit examines ideas of deviance and the emphasis on physical perfection in the gay community. Works on view include a cup, saucer and spoon set dipped in gold glitter that pays homage to Meret Oppenheim’s “Object.” Reception 6-9 p.m. March 2. Through March 18. Hello Studio, 1420 S. Alamo St. 210-291-8640, hellostudiosa.com
“SKINS”: An exhibit of new works by Elizabeth Carrington, features frenetic pop-art flavored paintings, collage, textiles and furnishing. Reception 6-9 p.m. March 2. Through March 31 by appointment, Mercury Project, 538 Roosevelt Ave. 210-478-9133.
“Magic Time Machine”: A two-person show featuring work by Ana Fernandez and Hiromi Stringer explores how the city’s landscape and cultural topography have been affected by the passage of time. Receptions 6:30 p.m. March 2 and 9:30 p.m March 3. Through April 30. Cinnabar, 1420 S. Alamo St., Blue Star Arts Complex. 210-557-6073,www.cinnabarart.com
“Pardon My Glitch”: New works on canvas by street artist Scotch! of images created with a technique that involves the precise layering of colors and patterns with hand cut stencils. Reception 6-11 p.m March 3. Through March 26. Show Down Gallery, 1420 S. Alamo St., No. 103. firstname.lastname@example.org
“Reflections of Landscape and Memory”: The CAM Perennial returns with a show curated by Chris Ingalls of Miami. The exhibit features work by more than a dozen artists including Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Ana Fernandez, Michele Monseau, Esteban Delgado and Ryan Takaba. Reception 6-8 p.m. March 10. Through April 30. Southwest School of Art, Russell Hill Rogers Gallery I & II, Navarro Campus, 1201 Navarro St. 210-224-1848, swschool.org
“Each organization is tasked with going to as many exhibitions as they can during Contemporary Art Month and choosing an artist or exhibition they would like to choose to be acknowledged for excellence,” he said. “It connects the art community with the art institutions in a direct way. And the award becomes more meaningful because it’s chosen by arts professionals who are not basing their award on who their friend is or who has the biggest network.”
Another, perhaps inevitable, change is that the CAM Perennial exhibition has a new home. The Guadalupe hosted the show for five years, but last year the Latino arts organization withdrew as its venue. Jerry Ruiz, the director of the Guadalupe at the time, cited a lack of diversity among the artists selected for the 2016 show as the reason. Tensions erupted on social media, and ultimately the exhibition was canceled.
This year, the Southwest School of Art is hosting the show. Titled “Reflections of Landscape and Memory,” it is curated by Chris Ingalls from Miami and features work by more than a dozen artists including Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Ana Fernandez, Michele Monseau, Esteban Delgado and Ryan Takaba.
The controversy surrounding last year’s exhibition also lead CAM to change the selection process for the Perennial. Previously, curators were given a list of artists compiled by prior Perennial curators and other arts professionals to work from. For the 2017 Perennial, the board instituted an open call.
“We didn’t realize there was a perception that we play favorites or what have you, and so we thought maybe the system we are using is not transparent enough or it’s unwieldy or it might not be the fairest way of working,” Sauter said. “We just thought, ‘There is a better system out there,’ so we decided to do the open call. It worked really well.”
Datchuk, who was selected for the scrapped 2016 Perennial and again for this year’s installment, is in favor of the new selection process.
“I think it’s great that there’s transparency in the process and that they’ve made it so it puts ownership on the individual to actually apply,” she said.
Datchuk, whose art deals with issues related to her Asian heritage, is contributing a pair of works to the Perennial, including “Sampler of an American Born Chinese,” a wall installation comprised of slip cast porcelain shower drains. Hair embroidered through the drains forms letters used to spell out derogatory terms such as “chink” and “ching chong.”
To Datchuk, CAM is about community and a valuable opportunity to have her work seen by an outside curator.
“Those opportunities are priceless when you’re just starting out or you’re an established artist,” she said. “It’s really great to be able to talk to someone outside of your local community.”
Wesley Harvey, a former San Antonio resident who is now based in Flagstaff, Arizona, is returning to the city for CAM. “Pretty Hurts,” an exhibit of ceramic sculpture and collage works examining ideas of deviance and physical perfection associated with homosexuality, will be on view at Hello Studio.
“Now being outside of San Antonio, CAM is so important for the San Antonio art community and the Texas community in general, because it’s something that a lot of cities don’t have,” he said. “I love when I lived in San Antonio that I knew in March every day of the month I could go and see a show and that there was just so much work to look at and get inspired by. I think it’s important for me to come back and show during CAM because San Antonio will always have a special place in my heart.”
Elizabeth Carrington, known for her frenetic pop art paintings, collage and furnishings, will have an exhibit of new works at Mercury Project. She is showing her work during CAM for the first time. That inspired her to challenge herself.
“It was kind of a cool thing to maybe not just have a random show, but to be part of a bigger picture,” she said. “It was definitely an inspiration for the way I approached doing this. You’re celebrating contemporary art, so I’m going to try to do something that pushes what I do, like the materials and the process and the subject matter (and) not worry so much about what it’s going to turn out to be.”
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