‘South Texas Life and Visual Culture’

Mesoamerican and Mexican-inspired sculptures depict ancient mythology

Riley Carroll, Arts & Life Editor

The Main Art Gallery at UTSA’s Main Campus recently debuted “South Texas Life and Visual Culture,” which features works by Gabi Magaly, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, Luis Valderas and Guillermina Zabala. 

“South Texas Life and Visual Culture features artists whose works reflect the diverse character of shared San Antonio and regional narratives and the artists’ own personal experiences, their understanding of cultural and creative legacies, as well as their commitments to challenging discrimination and marginalization and to encouraging appreciation of diversity,” the UTSA School of Art website described.

The exhibit curated by Dr. Scott A. Sherer will hold “Artist Talks” with each of the gallery’s featured artists on designated dates. On Friday, Sept. 16, Luis Valderas explained the process of creating his “Dream of the Birth of Huitzilopochtli” piece inspired by ancient Mesoamerican culture.

“Dream of the Birth of Huitzilopochtli” evokes portals that represent the multiple passages between the luminal world of ancestral myths and the realities of Mexican heritage in the present,” the School of Art website continued.

Valderas’ display features four humanoid sculptures called “sky bearers” positioned in a circular fashion, all facing the center of the room. Each of the sculptures were placed in coordination with the four cardinal directions: North, South, East and West — the center, he calls the “axis mundi.”

Riley Carroll

“Then there’s the fifth point or so to speak the fifth element when you’re in the center,” Valderas describes. “You become the ‘axis mundi.’ The ‘axis mundi’ is the connection bridge between the upper world, the real world and the lower world. And so you become the ‘axis mundi,’ and it means you are the center of your universe.”

The four symbolic “sky bearers” were made out of shipping styrofoam that Valderas collected from electronic device boxes over the past decade.

“I cut them up and then I rearranged them [to create] an aesthetic,” Valderas explained. “It [is] an aesthetic that’s not easily understandable just like Mesoamerican glyphs and sculptures. We know there’s a story being sent there but we just can’t quite make it up because we’re not familiar with the imagery or we don’t connect with the stories and the mythologies but we understand that something [is] unspoken there.”

The exhibition will be on display through Oct. 29. “Artist Talks” will be held in the Art Building’s Main Art Gallery with the remaining featured artists at 9 a.m. on Sept. 30 with Gabi Magaly, at 9 a.m. on Oct. 7 with Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson and at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14 with Guillermina Zabala.