UTSA Main Art Gallery opens first exhibit of the year: Trauma and Response

Saryvette Morales Cadiz, Assistant Arts & Life Editor

On view from Jan. 21 through Feb. 19, UTSA’s Main Art Gallery’s first exhibition of the year is “Trauma and Response,” a vulnerable collection of art that portrays mental health, cultural identity and the current political landscape. The collection was curated by UTSA faculty member Scott A. Sherer, and features artists Annabel Daou, Joachim West, El Franco Lee II, Heyd Fontenot, and Andrya Flores. These artists come from diverse backgrounds and they each share different angles of the social turmoil many people have felt during these last couple of years.

The exhibition displays art from different mediums including paintings, drawings, video and sculptures. Annabel Daou is a Lebanese artist whose art focuses on mental health issues and trauma. Daou’s art piece, “I Just Don’t Know,” shows colorful eyes crying white tears; it’s made out of graphite and gesso on paper and resembles mosaic stones.

Joachim West’s striking works are more often than not freakish and they don’t shy away from the grotesque images that leave viewers captivated. “School Days 2” shows a gorish scene in which an instructor transforms into an insect-like monster and takes over the classroom, meanwhile students appear to be dead, bored or trying to trick the creature. In the drawing, there is a chalkboard that reads, “Ethics,” but it lists morally corrupt acts. The drawing might suggest that the school system attempts to promote moral behavior, but ultimately fails. 

El Franco Lee II, born in Houston, creates artwork that spotlights the many horrors and injustices Black Americans have faced. In his painting “Fight or Flight,” Lee portrays the murder of James Byrd Jr. Byrd was a Black man who accepted a ride from three white men who turned out to be members of a white supremacist gang. Byrd was beat up and forced to go through other horrors until he was tied to the back of their truck and dragged around until he died. 

Heyd Fontenot’s panels “We are Being Sacrificed,” and “Just Say No,” emulate recent digital artworks activists use on social media to help spread awareness about issues going on in our society. It’s colorful, simple, and to the point. The simple line, “Just Say No to Fascist (and their followers),” pushes a cynical narrative on the type of activism that is shared online. The artwork suggests that social media activism can be tone deaf in some situations. 

Tejana artist Audrya Flores creates her art with repurposed materials; her sculpture “Cascabel,” is a giant coiling serpent made out of cacti, agave, cascabel chiles, marble chips, lava rock, river rock and wheat. Flores’s works are so elaborate and mystical that they entice you to keep searching for more intricate details.

“Trauma and Response” will be open until February 19. The UTSA Main Art Gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 10a.m. to 3p.m. Please remember to follow COVID-19 safety protocol upon entering the gallery. 

If you would like to find out more about the  Trauma and Response exhibit, check out the link below.