Texas State University, San Marcos. The Rising Star of Texas
blue sky

January 17 – February 16

Opening Reception: Monday, January 30 | 5 – 7 p.m.
Curator presentation: Monday, January 30 | 4:30 p.m.

scene of mountains and sky

Nico Colon, Sofia Cordova, Cruz Ortiz

An Adventure in the Sun…
Leslie Moody Castro, Guest Curator

In 2013 I wandered into the bookstore of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. From the corner of my eye a book caught my attention on the shelf in the children’s section. I walked over and realized that the book told the story of a family’s travel throughout the country of Mexico in the most abstract and broad example of storytelling I had ever seen.  As a reading audience we followed the implied protagonists as they traverse the homogenous geographies of Mexico that blended cultural regions, languages, and indigenous artifacts into one glossy, perfectly packaged book for children, and it fascinated me.

The illustrations were beautiful, the story was obviously meant to be culturally sensitive, but there were so many red flags that settled into my mind reading the book in the bookstore that day. The title itself: “Off we go to Mexico, An Adventure in the Sun…” provided an introduction that overlooked the extreme variety of climates in the country, while also making light of realities that people live every single day. Traveling to Mexico is not just an adventure, it is a location where real life happens.  Mexico is not just a state of sunshine and crystal clear beach water, it is a complex country with seven different climate regions, host to volcanos and fault lines, and is neither glossy nor homogenous.

The book was clearly not meant to be a negative description or intentionally classify Mexico in such broad terms.  It was obvious that the writer and editor were not malicious in their attempt to depict Mexico in a responsible way, there was still something unsettling about the book that I could not let go of. This was a children’s book. It is used to educate, to generate interest among children, and to show that travel is an important part of living in a global world. The problem, however, is that Texas and Mexico share a border and are in such shockingly close proximity with one another then a children’s book like this one should not be such a homogeneous tale of a happy adventure in the sun. If this book can exist about two geographies that share such a similar culture, then I wondered how the stories of other geographies are also told.

This was my conundrum. While not malicious, it still wasn’t accurate. The illustrations were beautiful, but equally flat and anonymous. The story was meant to educate and broaden perspectives, but it was still superficial and colonial, and it was meant to educate children.  I purchased the book immediately, and have held onto it, and revisited it a number of times since its purchase in 2013.

Inspired by this chance encounter with the children’s picture book, guest curator Leslie Moody Castro brings together an exhibition exploring how identity is created, diffused, and taught, not only in the context of Mexico, but in general. Artists Nico Colon, Sofia Cordova, and Cruz Ortiz collaborate with Castro to reimagine and articulate responses to a topic that defines our socio-political atmosphere. The artistic response to a charming yet simplistic depiction of Mexico meant for children creates an opportunity to explore and problematize, within the system of education, taxonomies and general characterizations of culture. This is the second exhibition guest curated by Leslie Moody Castro for the University Galleries exploring and responding to issues of culture.

Nico Colon, based in Los Angeles, California, and Mexico City, produces paintings informed by the history and imagery of the conquest of Mexico and the United States. Sofia Cordova, born in Puerto Rico and living in Oakland, California, uses the vernacular of digital media to create speculative future-histories of human existence and interaction. Cruz Ortiz lives and works in San Antonio, Texas, uses print, performance, and film to address issues related to his experiences growing up in the bicultural landscape of South Texas. Leslie Moody Castro is an independent curator and writer living and working in both Mexico and Texas. She has organized and collaborated on numerous exhibitions and recently co-founded Unlisted Projects, an artist residency program in Austin, Texas. Moody Castro was recently awarded a grant through the National Endowment for the Arts for her collaborative project Placeholder, at the Visual Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin; and has also been selected as Curator and Artistic Director for the Texas Biennial, slated for the fall of 2017. She is a regular contributor to Artforum, Flash Art International, Frieze Magazine, ArtNews, and Artcritical. Moody Castro earned her Master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin in Museum Education with a portfolio supplement in Museum Studies in 2010, and her Bachelor’s degree in Art History at DePaul University in Chicago in 2004.

 

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