San Antonio-based artists, Lisette Chávez (website) and Audrya Flores (website) have taken on the peculiar dance story of South Texas - El Camaroncito with a new exhibition titled, Angel Baby on view Saturday, July 8th at AP Art Lab located at 1906 S. Flores during the Second Saturday Art Walk in the Southtown Arts District. Through Angel Baby, El Camaroncito is retold. The story is about a woman who finds herself in the company of a handsome man with a chicken foot and cloven hoof. Chávez and Flores reclaim this legend through a feminist perspective; recreating the story with a female protagonist as they challenge viewers to consider the manner in which folklore reinforces societal expectations of women and gender related power structures.
Chávez was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley and has an MFA in lithography and installation. Her most recent artwork questions faith and confronts the discomfort in balancing religious beliefs and actions in everyday life. Flores is a Tejana artist, educator, and mother from Brownsville, Texas. Her artwork addresses issues regarding identity influenced by the storytelling traditions of her family, the occult, and her cultural roots.
Chávez and Flores took some time from their busy install this week to answer a few questions - shedding more light on the meaning behind Angel Baby and more insight to what inspires them. Here’s what they had to say.
Why did you two decide to revisit this particular South Texas folktale?
Lisette Chávez: Although we had a goal of collaborating on a project, we really wanted to have an organic way of selecting our concept. We met several times and had many casual conversations. Audrya and I have a strong interest in the occult and the supernatural. After exchanging a few ghost stories, we kept circling back to the tale of “El Camaroncito.” Audrya Flores: The exploration of dark themes in our work is definitely where Lisette and I connect. We’re both from the Rio Grande Valley, so we were raised on ghost stories and folktales. We wanted to address some recurring issues we were dealing with as women, but also tell a story full of horror and nostalgia. “El Camaroncito” was a natural fit.
What are some reasons for challenging your viewers’ assumptions of societal expectations, particularly within gendered power constructs?
Lisette Chávez: In discussing a lot of the South Texas folklore, Audrya and I realized how women were portrayed as these weak, naive, and almost hysterical characters. We wanted to use this opportunity to create a female character that exuded power. In this case, she’s the protagonist. Rather than being hunted, she is the hunter. Audrya Flores: The women in the ghost stories and folktales I was exposed to as a child were always being shamed for something. They were “getting what they deserved” for some sort of immoral behavior. And despite my love for the chills they inspired, I have always hated the admonishing tone in these stories. I mean, don’t women have to hear enough of that bullshit in our everyday lives? So, Lisette and I felt the need to imagine a character that was different. She is not a victim of her circumstances. She doesn’t make choices based on fear or the expectations of someone else. She is strong, formidable, and shameless. I could’ve used a hero like her growing up!
How did you like working with the video medium?
Audrya Flores: It was a challenge! There are so many moving pieces to coordinate. But we’ve had a lot of help from family and friends and that has really made this new medium less daunting. I learned a lot. It’s allowing me to see my own work completely differently now. Movement and action are such incredible elements. I look forward to exploring this medium more. Lisette Chávez: There was a lot of planning involved within our project and it really helped. We also sketched a lot and had several conversations about the way we wanted our viewer to perceive the imagery. Because of the planning portion, I feel like it’s more difficult for me to be spontaneous with the video medium. There were some instances when we were shooting and we’d come across a great shot; those opportunities were my favorite.
Last, but not least, a little more about you. Do you use art to understand your identity? If so, explain how.
Lisette Chávez: Definitely, I revisit a lot of my childhood memories through my work. It is in making the work that I’m able to analyze, meditate over thoughts, and come to an understanding about some of the complex interactions I’ve had with my family. Audrya Flores: Yes. For me, art is a tool for looking inward, a tool for healing. Almost all of my work is me trying to “see” my whole self. Currently, I’m making work that addresses trauma and anxiety. I’m exploring how those issues shape how I view the rest of the world and myself.
Name two artists that have strongly influenced your work.
Lisette Chávez: I really admire the work of Aleksandra Waliszewska and Sharon Kopriva.
Audrya Flores: Katy Horan and Mas Rudas (they're a collective, so I’m cheating) have been very influential.
What would you to say to anyone that is questioning their decisions when it comes to being an artist in the 21st century?
Lisette Chávez: 1) Keep your art honest and pull inspiration from your own life experiences. 2) The only person you should compete with is yourself. Audrya Flores: Spill your guts! Be weird. Make it genuine.
What hobbies do you have outside of making art?
Lisette Chávez: I like looking at old items online or in thrift shops, I'm curious to learn about an object’s history. I also love watching horror movies and foreign films. Audrya Flores: I love working with plants. It’s an obsession, really. And if I’m not in my garden, you can catch me at a local thrift shop or the Guadalupe River.
This concludes our Q&A session with Audrya and Lisette. We have some incredibly, outstanding South Texas talent here. Help us support these two artists by joining us for the opening reception on Sat., July 8, 2017 from 7-10pm at AP Art Lab, 1906 S. Flores, located at the 1906 Building during the Second Saturday Art Walk in the Southtown Arts District. A closing reception will be held Sat, Aug. 12 from 7-10pm. This event is free and open to the public. To visit the gallery between these dates, please make an appointment at email@example.com
ABOUT THE GALLERY: Lady Base Gallery is an artist-funded community initiative to support the artistic practice of women and LGBTQ artists in San Antonio, Texas. While working to exhibit emerging to mid-career artists; Lady Base Gallery also builds partnerships with local galleries such as AP Art Lab to provide gallery space for professional development. AP Art Lab is operated by Amanda Poplawsky and strives to provide a space that cultivates “civic, social, and community engagement through art”
Huge thanks to our sponsor Viva Vegeria for their gracious support.
Q&A Sessions edited by Sarah Castillo
Castillo is the gallerist for Lady Base Gallery and a San Antonio-based artist