At McNay’s “Art of SA Eats” Exhibition, a New Way to Appreciate San Antonio’s Culinary Culture


The work of five artists is sure to trigger your memories as well as whet your appetite.

SAN ANTONIO – Like any good go-to aperitif, one of the first exhibits you can expect to walk through if you visit the McNay in the coming months will stimulate your senses and whet your appetite for what lies ahead. And like any good foodie Instagram account, “The art of eating SA”- located in the Pat and Tom Frost octagon of the museum, and until January 23 – wonders if the food and the San Antonio’s cultura de comida may not be as satisfying to watch as it is to eat.

“The Art of SA Eats” brings the talents of five local artists to the McNay, where scale miniatures, mouth-watering paintings and looping video projects collaborate for a compact but comprehensive showcase illuminating not only why San Antonians eat this that we eat, but or also.

Exhibition organizers say they hope it will also recontextualize McNay’s “where” himself.

“It was really important, as you come here, that it be a welcoming space,” said Isabel Servantez, co-curator of “Art of SA Eats”. “For better or for worse, there are still a lot of misconceptions that museums are not welcoming. We try to highlight the moments of embrace.

On a recent visit to the exhibition, we spoke to three of the artists about their inspirations and what they hope to capture with their work.

The first thing you’ll probably notice about Steven Cromwell’s miniatures is how hyper-detailed they are. (Yes, that striking shade of red on the ’59 Impala is a true two-coat paint that GM would use.)

The second thing you’ll notice is that while his miniatures represent familiar places in the city – including the now razed Malt House on the west side, the ever-so-powerful Oscar’s Taco House – he didn’t create any action figures. to populate them.

This work, says Cromwell, belongs to the visitors.

“The second I add numbers, your memory and view of my work will only be locked into what this painted figure of a person does,” he said. “Your imagination runs wild without the figure there. ”

You could say that it provides the canvas for your experiences to paint their own art. Or, in keeping with the theme of “Art of SA Eats”, he expects you to spice up his designs to your liking.

Either way, scale models have been Cromwell’s artistic preference for over 30 years, having created them since his childhood.

“I hardly need to measure at this point, I have been doing it for so long.”

But he still has time to test his skills, which he discovered for himself when he released the six miniature dioramas in about a month and a half. He says it would have taken about four times as long if he hadn’t had a tight schedule.

A pair of paleta carts, a vintage truck stop, a bakery storefront, and a chamoy-themed food truck run by a fellow artist complete Cromwell’s pieces, which he says were created almost entirely in his own right. hand, using materials found at any hardware store. Cromwell said his goal was to create a “celebration of the past” rather than channeling pure nostalgia.

“All the places I have tried to do are either family related or places I remember going. It has become an unforeseen exploration of San Antonio’s ethnic diversity, ”he said, referring to the various stories and memories his models have drawn from McNay visitors.

Follow Steven Cromwell on Instagram at @stevencromwell_art.

Before creating her oil paintings enlarged by half a dozen conchas – paintings so photorealistic that one would swear her profession was photography – Eva Marengo Sanchez underwent the most envious research.

She visited 20 San Antonio panaderias and bought each one a conch shell, eventually bringing them all home and arranging them side by side where she could examine them up close. It was then that the details of the beloved breakfast pastry surfaced.

“I consider them to be snowflakes,” she said. “They all look the same, but they are all so different from each other. “

She prioritized the pick of six pan dulces for “Art of SA Eats”, by painting them on huge canvases in vibrant colors. In conjunction, they show that there isn’t some kind of conch shell – one of Sanchez’s paintings shows an orange-colored candy bar with pink sugar while a more yellow one is not covered in sugar at all, and all have variations in the crackle surface patterns the conchas are known for.

There is a larger picture of these differences, Sanchez said.

“I wanted to be representative of all the different sides of San Antonio, so it’s all (of) a circle around town,” she said. “It is a celebration of the aesthetic beauty of our culture.

Equally impressive are Sanchez’s deceptively detailed paintings of fruit cups, also different in packaging, size, and slice inherent in San Antonio’s geography.

“It’s like different people are pictured without putting a face on any of them,” she said. “I love that you can tell a story about a person without an individual being represented.”

You might not be able to taste these conchas, but they won’t spoil either. Sanchez said she had to think on the fly to preserve the several she bought to prevent them from stinking until she had a chance to get as many photos as she could to work.

Follow Eva Marengo Sanchez on Instagram at @evammsanchez.

No one would look at a piece of the signage of a San Antonio restaurant or motel and remember the great artists of the Renaissance.

No one except Ben Ortiz, whose artistic side found inspiration while living in Italy. And when he returned to San Antonio, he discovered a new appreciation for the handcrafted vintage signs he recalled from his childhood, likening them to public art.

“And what’s strange is that they’re destroying them like crazy,” Ortiz said. “So this fantastic window of sculpture for everyone, for anyone to experience – think how egalitarian this idea is – and now we’re going into a new idea that kind of leaves that.” “

So he started to make sure the old ideas stick around. Ortiz creates oil paintings of these signs still visible along the streets of San Antonio, making sure to capture the creative shapes, vivid colors and unlit bands of neon bulbs that give them a different flavor at night. .

The fact that Ortiz mainly paints the signs as they appear during the day adds a level of imagination for those who observe his art and remember their own experiences.

“Something about this neon dancing above – it’s like we find out that there are many dimensions to this reality, and neon is another dimension to the reality of what the sign is trying to achieve. say, “he said. “It’s a crazy idea. I was trying to get a feel for reality in a world dominated by screens.

That being said, you can pull out your own screen and watch Ortiz in action. He frequently posts time-lapse videos on his Instagram account that give an idea of ​​the thoroughness of his work, a work that testifies to an artist motivated to preserve the iconography of his hometown.

“This is something personal at a time when the personnel are quickly disappearing,” he said. “San Antonio is beautiful when no one is looking. When it’s just itself, it’s so beautiful and such a personal place.

Follow Ben Ortiz on Instagram at @pyroelvis


Comments are closed.