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Early last year, young artists of color and lifelong best friends Sealia Montalvo and Crisa Valadez decided to take their friendship to the next level with a creative partnership.
With the goal of fusing the complementary talents and interests of Montalvo (who is studying civic engagement and nonprofit management at the University of Texas at San Antonio) and Valadez (who is studying visual arts and new media at Our Lady of the Lake), The International School of the Americas graduates set out to highlight emerging artists through the accessible, do-it-yourself format of pop-up exhibits. Although the germinating seed was firmly planted, one key thing was missing: a name.
“Actually, it was kind of funny, because we had had our idea for months, but we just didn’t have a name,” Valadez recalled.
Looking for something a little dark, earthy, and metaphysical, the San Antonio natives traded words and eventually settled on a nickname for their fledgling effort: Motherling.
“We said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense,’” Montalvo said of the name. “Because we are definitely driven by women; We definitely try to support non-binary and female-identifying people within our community to try to be as inclusive as possible.”
That directive was made abundantly clear with Motherling’s first pop-up, “Loveforms.” Presented last February at Brick at the Blue Star Arts Complex, that group showcases united works by 20 women and artists who identify as women through an open theme: love. Beyond spotlighting local creatives, Motherling’s debut showcased Montalvo’s mounting and installation skills, skills she learned when she was a teenager attending Blue Star’s MOSAIC Student Artist Program.
“I took that experience up [other] projects, and it definitely helps with the Motherling collective,” said Montalvo, who has since brought Valadez up to speed on the ins and outs of putting on a show.
Last July, Motherling expanded her reach by mixing in some male artists in “Text to Frame,” a “visual poetry show” presented at Rojo Gallery.
Those two shows caught the eye of rising curator Isabel Servantez, who served as a Semmes Foundation intern at the McNay Art Museum from 2020 to 2021 and was recently appointed curator of exhibitions and programs for Austin’s Museo Mexic-Arte. .
“After their ‘Text to Frame’ exhibition, Sealia and Crisa approached me with the offer to curate an exhibition with them,” explained Servantez. “I was immediately excited about this opportunity. Over the course of several years, she had tracked down three collage artists: Zoe Carlson, Nancy Casanova, and Anna Foran. Although their practices are seemingly disparate in subject matter and technique, I was drawn to each of their bodies of work, approaching collage from different and unique perspectives and approaches. … I felt strongly that these three artists would be a good fit together.”
To complete the trio of artists selected by Servantez, Montalvo and Valadez chose two collage artists from San Antonio: Tink Castillo and Anette Cavazos. On view at FL!GHT Gallery through January 28, the resulting collaboration is “Garden of Reflection,” a non-narrative exhibition comprising analogue and digital collages exploring “form, form, material, and movement” along with a myriad of intermediate topics.
“It has been a pleasure working with Sealia and Crisa,” added Servantez. “They are enthusiastic, creative and diligent in providing opportunities for artists and art professionals.”
The Motherling duo also have a gift that money or training can’t buy: synergy. During one of our visits with them at FL!GHT, we witnessed a moment that was quite adorable. As they planned the placement of the artworks on the gallery’s bare walls, Valadez looked at Montalvo and said, “I feel like I couldn’t do this with any of my other friends.”
“I feel the same way,” Montalvo responded.
These visual highlights from the show are five reasons to visit Motherling’s “Garden of Reflection.”
zoe carlson, father sky
Incorporating acrylic paint, magazine clippings and muslin embroidery, Denver-based “artist, seeker, daughter, sister and nonprofit administrator” Zoe Carlson is inspired by Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags, Peruvian offerings and “indigenous communities doing the real work.” on the front lines of environmental justice.”
tink Castle, Blasphemy
Driven by surrealism, Houston native and San Antonio-based Tink Castillo experiments with layers and textures in hand-cut collages that encourage viewers to look beyond the obvious and “focus on hidden meanings.”
Nancy Casanova, Reflection 2: Flashbulb Memories
Artist, collector, scavenger, and San Antonio nomad Nancy Casanova examines human behavior and habits in cut-and-paste collages made of “ephemera discarded from her travels, books, magazines, old drawings, and works of art that have been damaged and abandoned”.
Anette Cavazos, Increase
Guided by dreams, memory, ambiguity, and composition, San Antonio native Anette Cavazos’ collages combine archival illustrations and clippings from magazines and books she collects in thrift stores.
Ana Foran, Untitled (Party)
Toronto-based visual artist and writer Anna Foran superimposes clippings, paint, and pencil on paper to conjure ghosts, gaps, and “the fullness of absence.”
To learn more about Motherling, follow the collective on Instagram. @madre.sa.
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