By Elda Silva
Ana Fernandez and Ruth Buentello have wanted to work together since they met almost 10 years ago.
Chatting at a party, the two San Antonio-based artists realized they had a lot in common. Both are alums of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; both paint in a realist style; and both are Latinas who find inspiration in their everyday surroundings — Fernandez in the modest homes and mom-and-pop shops that line the streets of the Eastand West sides of San Antonio; Buentello in the inner workings of family.
Long overdue, the collaboration has come to fruition with “Eastside Westside” by Fernandez and “Narratives Invented” by Buentello, both now on view at Galería Guadalupe. Also on display: a show curated by Fernandez featuring works by Junye Butler, Marcy McChesney, Rosa Fernandez and Elizabeth Rodriguez.
Fernandez began working on her paintings for the show at the end of March, focusing on “what free enterprise looks like in our communities,” she said. As the owner of the popular Chamoy City Limits raspa food truck, that’s something the artist knows about first hand.
“Las Princesas” by Ana Fernandez.
“I wanted to capture the American Dream, what the American Dream looks like on the East Side and on the West Side,” Fernandez said.
As Fernandez was painting the piece, she noticed “that this kind of makes a memento mori at the bottom with the skull and the candle,” she said. “It has the symbology of death at the bottom. Then if you look up on top, it’s literal high. It has a portrait of all our vices with the ‘SA Busted.’”
Other works by Fernandez include a painting of West Side party favor store “Las Princesas” with an army of Easter bunny piñatas out front and roadside stand with roses for sale.
“I’m a representational landscape painter, so all these places that you see here are places that I frequent and see all the time,” Fernandez said.
Buentello, a former member of the Chicana arts collective Más Rudas, spent her summer off from teaching making paintings for the exhibition. A lot of her work is autobiographical, she said. “It’s all about things that I’ve experienced in the last two years with my family.”
That painting is about “Latinos and their health and how families cope when they have family members that are sick,” she said. “It’s very bright, but also dark in the expressions in their faces. It’s not your typical birthday party photo.”
“These are paintings I’ve been wanting to create a long time around Mexican blankets — colchas — and what they mean symbolically,” she said. “They’re a comfort and they’re a place for re-energizing yourself, and at the time they can be a place where you can hide from whatever it is your going to.”
The two artists kept in touch while they were creating the works for the shows, sending each other images and getting together. Not surprisingly, they influenced each other.
“I guess our influence on each other started when we first met,” Fernandez said. “Our work is in really good balance because I don’t paint a lot of figures, and she does. I’ve always admired that ability she’s got to capture those really tense psychological moments that she captures.”
“Eastside Westside” and “Narratives Invented” continue through Oct. 6, Galería Guadalupe, 723 S. Brazos St., 210-271-3151, guadalupeculturalarts.org.