We recently had the opportunity to interview María C. Gaztambide, the inaugural director and chief curator of the Public Art of the University of Houston System. Speaking with María got us really excited about the work she is doing across the campuses, and so we wanted to share five pieces from the collection that touched us after hearing what María is trying to do.
Fiesta Jarabe (Fiesta Dancers)
Fiesta Jarabe (Fiesta Dancers) by Luis Jiménez. It is from an edition of five and features a couple dancing to a “Jarabe Tapatío”, or the traditional Mexican hat dance. Decked out in traditional folkloric attire, the working-class dancers that Jiménez celebrates through their larger-than-life scale celebrate sensuality and make a pointed statement about fate, oppression, and inevitability.
Salt Marsh by John Biggers is inspired by an ancient African children’s story about the never-ending chase between a rabbit and turtle. The mural represents the birthplace of Houston and its self-sustaining force as well as, more broadly, the artist’s dual concerns with African culture and children as the foundation for the future.
Your Move by Lawrence Argent depicts three unnaturally large gourds. The concept of the piece relates to notions of education, community, and the individual; all germane to a university campus. Yet the relevance of the gourd form is also significant. The gourd is one of the first plants to be cultivated throughout the world and has been used for thousands of years. It is one of the few plants believed to span the entire globe in prehistoric times and is used in every culture from food to decoration to jewelry.
Orante/Mujer con las Manos Cruzadas
Orante/Mujer con las Manos Cruzadas (Woman Praying/Woman with Her Hands Crossed) by Francisco Zúñiga comes from his most popular series Peasant Women represents the simple life. He portrayed these Mexican Indian women in all their majesty as mother, healer, comforter, and matriarch. By exemplifying the struggles and pride Zúñiga bronzes became eternal figures, forging a link to Mexico’s cultural past. Orante/Mujer con las Manos Cruzadas displays all attributes of his work that made Zúñiga a famous sculptor.
Untitled by Malou Flato merges a realistic style with stylized design elements in the pair of murals. The untitled works are loosely based on events that Flato experienced in the San Antonio area. On one she depicts an audience in a stadium while the subject of the second mural is a group of children sliding down a hill. She refers to this line of production as her “wallpaper people.”
For more information on these works, and many more, check out the Public Art UHS website.