Christopher Breakell, The Paisano
Blurring the line between reality and fantasy, the artworks displayed in the UTSA Downtown Art Gallery begin a whimsical narrative that only the viewer can complete.
The exhibition titled “MUSE” displays the artwork of four San Antonio artists, totaling 20 works. It includes the works of UTSA M.F.A. students Sarah Fox and Brittany Ham, UTSA art professor Soomin Jung and San Antonio artist Maritza Blu. Marking his debut curatorial exhibition, MUSE is curated by B.F.A major Rafael Gutierrez. He laid out the space to display each of the artists’ works on a separate wall, and Maritza Blu’s metal sculptures dominantly stand in the center of it all.
Blu’s metal balloons, attached to the ground by a chaotic mess of white metal strings, float rigidly in the space. These are not the balloons being passed out at children’s birthday parties, but instead the ones decorating the scene of a post-apocalyptic celebration. A large, pervasive metal eye hanging from a metal rod stands next to the rusted balloons, adding to the perplexity.
These surreal sculptures are only the beginning to a visual journey into a distant, yet oddly familiar world filled with fanciful scenes and mysterious narratives.
Brittany Ham’s characters confront the viewer with disfigured forms and distorted faces. Organic watercolor strokes create the muddy faces and forms of her abnormal subjects. The figures’ black eyes and open mouths grotesquely stare out at the viewer, but the patterned fabrics that cover the figures’ torsos soften their eerie feel. Unsettling at first, these odd characters reveal their humble personalities and become strangely relatable.
Ham’s characters are slightly too grim to live in the fantastical world of Sarah Fox’s collage pieces. These soft pink worlds are filled with outlandish plants, animal-human hybrids and nonsensical scenes. They beg the viewer to jump in and experience a world that has endless possibilities, not governed by the laws of science.
Sooming Jung’s meticulous colored pencil drawings present the most naturalistic subjects in the show, but her juxtapositions make viewers question their own reality as much as any of the other pieces. A beautiful mountain range sits on a shoreline; however, the San Antonio skyline reflects back from the water’s surface. Forcing these worlds to inhabit the same space makes the audience question the structure of the present world and what the future has in store.
“MUSE’s” opening reception is Thursday, Nov. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The exhibition will be on view until Jan. 31, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.