The First Annual Noche de Recuerdos!

It’s funny, but I can’t remember when Ramon, Deborah, and I began talking about Noche de Recuerdos as something serious which we planned on making happen. I do know that we have been actively working on running fund-raising activities for about six months. Most likely we’ve been talking about this event as a group for about nine months. When asked where the idea came from, I can only shrug. Apparently there was a lunch or a dinner or a couple round of drinks that happened–when and where I do not know. I must have been out of town, because I was not present. Apparently Henry de Leon was present. He’s an artist, florist, and major arts advocate. It seems Henry’s been working on this idea for quite some time. But somehow the meme of floating, illuminated altars found its way into the Proyecto Locos realm. I’m not in a position to claim ownership of this idea. Originator or not of this idea, I do have to acknowledge Henry’s important work in helping us to realize this project. He’s an honorary Loco, and one of the truly good guys in this town.

Anyway, Saturday night the event finally happened, as I knew it was bound to. The thing about production is that, after a certain point, there is no way to stop the momentum. You just have to step out of the way, make sure it happens as best as possible, and try not to get run over by the speeding train bearing down on you.

Saturday was a damn exhausting day. I’m still beat and battered, but, damn, things worked out very well. No one drowned. There were no fisticuffs between artists. It was a pleasant, low-key event. Maybe 17 artists placed work in the water. The total number of attendees wasn’t too huge–I guesstimated 150–but if quality is the measure, we had a wonderful audience of laid-back art lovers happy to chill out to a low-impact evening of unique floating art.

When we initially began speaking to people about the idea, we realized what an easy sell it was. In the argot of Hollywood, it’s an easy pitch. San Antonio artists understand the idea of an altar as a work of art. And the idea of self-illuminated works of art floating on an intimate pond in a public park on the west side struck so many people–artists and non-artists alike–as something very special.

And it was very special. Saturday night I heard many people tell me that it was exactly as they pictured it.

This evening could not have happened in this particular manner without Proyecto Locos. And, of course, our sponsor of the event, AIT-SCM (American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Missions), who made things run so smoothy. The volunteers out in the kayaks were great. They placed the altars right where the artists wanted them. And later, when it got dark, the boat boys were out there, mere shadows, artfully repositioning the altars if they drifted askew. We also had a Native American blessing, poets, and Indian music provided by AIT.

I wish I could have taken loads of photos and video, but I was running here and there, making sure things were working smoothly. Also, I had to keep on top of my own altar. It was a dual-layer floating projection screen. I had a mammoth gasoline generator to occasionally baby-sit. It was powering my video projector (which was balanced precariously on a stone retaining wall three inches from the water’s edge). The video was a piece I had created a few years back for the Dia de los Muertos show at Centro Cultural Aztlan, “In Memoria / Wind,” is a short looped video of roadside altars around San Antonio. My floating screen was rather homely, but once the defects were hidden by the cover of night, the over-all aesthetics of the project was not too bad. I only wish I had managed to have my proposed four layers. But that looked like shit. I settled for two. Here’s a photo.

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My favorite piece was Deborah Keller-Rihn’s. It was simple and beautiful, and very effective. She used an automobile inner tub as the flotation platform. Inside the donut hole was a floating circle of styrofoam which acted as a platform for about ten of those battery-powered dome lights (you know, stick them on the wall of your closet, press the plastic dome, and, click, it comes on). Set atop the inner tube were two pieces of round Plexiglas (the bottom, translucent white, the top, clear), and sandwiched between, a photo of her parents printed on plastic transparent material. Here’s a picture.

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My second favorite was by Oscar Alvarado. It was fucking huge! The floatation platform was a Hobie kayak. Oscar had created a grotto. But it wasn’t made from a bathtub, he used that industrial spray foam. This huge edifice (which enclosed an image of one of his famous ancestors) was supported on the kayak by an impressive outrigger frame constructed from five inch (or larger) PVC. The lights were powered by some no-nonsense batteries and an inverter. Oscar doesn’t fanny around. He makes some serious shit.

There was such a wonderful variety of work. When we, Proyecto Locos, began pushing this event, we never thought there would be such a wide variety of floatation and lighting schemes. Inner tubes and styrofoam were about equally divided as the most common forms of floatation. But there was also Oscar’s kayak, one piece on wood, one or two on capped PVC pipe, and a truly wonderful piece placed afloat upon a platform of empty beer cans taped water-tight.

Here’s a few pictures. I hope others who were photographing the evening will share.

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Thank you everyone who was behind us in this event. I don’t care if you were able to show up or not. I’m happy that so many people responded to our Proyecto Locos event with support, good energy, or whatever. If all you did was smile when we mentioned this idea, or perhaps you bought one of our Raspas Locos during the summer.or maybe you came to our “Viva Max” screening at URBAN-15….well, we want to thank you. It was a beautiful and magical evening. And it looks like there will be another Noche de Recuerdos next years.

We hope to see you all then!

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