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Contemporary Photography in Texas

Contemporary Photography in Texas

Desiree Michelle Espada & Kasumi Chow
Cake, 2014
From the series truly, madly
Courtesy of the artists and The Public Trust, Dallas.

Rolando Sepulveda Rig Pop, 2015 Courtesy of the artist
Rolando Sepulveda
Rig Pop, 2015
Courtesy of the artist.

Fotofest’s This Side of Paradise

Fall in Texas signifies the beginning of the arts season. After spending the summer months in relative hibernation, our state’s galleries and museums spring to life to debut new programming and exhibitions. Some of the most exciting showcases of talent also seem to land during the year’s later months and 2015 is no exception, as Fotofest and the Houston Center for Photography open their 6th biennial Talent in Texas series.

Curated by PaperCity’s Catherine Anspon, the Talent in Texas exhibition, titled This Side Of Paradise, includes artists from the state’s major cities – namely Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio though one artist from Odessa (the notable Steve Goff) is represented. While it would be nice to see more cities lacking in institutional creative outlets receive more cultivation when considering a state-wide photography initiative, This Side Of Paradise blends together budding artists and more senior photographers to create a holistic portrait of Texas’s visual arts landscape.

Arts+Culture Texas spoke with four artists/artistic collaborators about their involvement with this year’s exhibition, which artists they’re excited to see, and how they feel about representing their individual creative communities.

Kasumi Chow and Desiree Espada are creative collaborators from Dallas, TX. Their joint photography projects focus on abstract portraits of femininity and maturation.

A+C: As collaborators, you both must be used to compromise and trying to strike a common aesthetic narrative. How did you approach the idea of joining a group exhibition?

DESIREE ESPADA: We joke about it all the time but sometimes it feels like we’re married. Our collaboration is definitely a compromise but a lot of the time, it’s like we are having the same vision [and] we are one person. When we’re making work, we are sketching, researching and talking through ideas together in the same room, [which] makes all of the difference. We make it a point to get together when we are working, even if it’s just to discuss logistics. Sometimes we forget it is unusual for photographers to work together but its something we acknowledge and we love it.

A+C: Your subject matter is often abstract – what experiences do you want audiences to have with your work?

DE:We want our viewers to feel something, a spark, a desire an ounce of euphoria. Each detail has been methodically thought through. Every piece holds a meaning or memory for us. We want people to devour the work with their eyes. We love to see people taking photos with the ponytail (depicted Pony, 2014). Interacting with the work or talking about the work gets us really excited. For our opening at The Public Trust Gallery in Dallas, we had 500 baby pink balloons. People kicked them around and had a fantastic time. That’s what we are all about.

Rolando Sepulveda lives and works in Austin, TX. His photography explores gender, sexuality, and racial identity.

Rolando Sepulveda Go and Win, 2015 Courtesy of the artist.
Rolando Sepulveda
Go and Win, 2015
Courtesy of the artist.

A+C: How did you select which pieces you wanted to showcase?

ROLANDO SEPULVEDA:I had been in the midst of creating some new work when I was contacted about this opportunity so many of the pieces shown will be viewed for the first time, along with a few older pieces…I like to say that I don’t really work on bodies of work but rather one large continuing body because my approach to photography recognizes the fluidity of the process, so I am excited to see how some newer pieces exist with the older ones…consistency frightens me but also keeps me grounded.

A+C: You represent two cities in Texas, having been raised in San Antonio but currently live in Austin. Do you feel your art speaks to that dual-experience?

RS: I love this question and it definitely does. As of now, I associate San Antonio with tradition, home, and specific experiences. I associate Austin with change, fluidity, and abstraction…juxtaposing these more abstracted and sterile images, which are more reflective of Austin, with specific icons and entities that San Antonio can provide is where I hope to push this dialogue. If I am messing around with a bunch of plastic toys and things for a photograph in Austin, they probably have a name or specific memory attached to them in San Antonio.

Irby Pace creates deconstructed images, which interpret space, identity, and relational-objecthood. He lives and works in Dallas, TX.

A+C: What work will you be showing at Foto Fest?

Irby Pace, Luminiferous Aether, 2015.
Irby Pace, Luminiferous Aether, 2015.

IRBY PACE: I’ll be showing new work that I shot while on a recent trip to Marfa, Texas. It’s part of my ongoing series titled: “Explosions in the Sky.” They are large-scale digital color prints that will be on display at the main FotoFest location.

The floating phenomena in my photographs fill the void of the urban and natural landscapes. I alter the real physical space with real floating colorful clouds of smoke and allow nature to dictate the shape and duration. This allows me to capture the momentary glimpse of the vacant space. By using crude and readily available resources, I am experimenting with the tension of upward or outward movement against the downward force of gravity, creating the illusion of gravity defiance.

Irby Pace, Giant, 2014.
Irby Pace, Giant, 2014.

A+C: Which other artists are you excited to see?

IP:I’m excited to see everyone’s work but I can’t wait to see Kasumi Chow and Desiree Espada’s work along with my former professor Steve Goff who was and has been an incredible influence over me and my life.

This Side Of Paradise opens in a dual-location setting, at both the Houston Center for Photography and Fotofest’s Silver Street Studios in Houston, TX. The exhibition will be on display from October 8th through November 14th.

—CAITLIN GREENWOOD