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Catalogs - Kathy Vargas

Kathy Vargas is a magician who uses the simple forces of light, shadows, and illusions to tell a compelling story. Her exploration of subject matter is not an act of faith; rather, the intent of her work is to make us curious about life and its many mysteries. A photo of family members, a child playing, and a mother with her child reveal a time and place of generations past. Her images give us an understanding of the persistence of culture in Mexican American communities.

Our imagination leaps into her frames, and we seem at ease with the gathering of Latino families. We are comfortable that children are made the center of attention.  But there is also the deeper exploration of ties between nature and human beings. Her photos present us with a dilemma: What is the image before us? Perhaps a look at our inner self? A revelation of our subconscious?  Some might say that her images are the links between our spirits and our desires. We cannot definitively know, for we are, indeed, confronted with a sophisticated level of presenting a subject. We are made aware that before us is a deep exploration of universal topics and concepts. Can we be sure that the heart is broken? Are we to think that there is hope rather than despair in the subjects? We are forced to explore the spirituality of our own lives and communities. There is much to think about. Kathy Vargas has drawn us in so that we can better appreciate our humanity and our links to the natural world.

Dr. Ricardo Romo
The University of Texas at San Antonio  

Kathy Vargas is a native San Antonian. Born in 1950, she continues to live and work in her childhood home. She began studying painting and later photography in the early seventies. Ms. Vargas attended the University of Texas at San Antonio; she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1981 and a Masters of Fine Arts degree in 1984. Over the next three decades, she earned her well-founded reputation as a compelling artist with a unique vision. Her work has been shown and praised throughout the world. She is currently the Chair of the Art and Music Department at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.

A gravestone the artist encountered in 1982 inspired the title of this series. The stone bore no identifying inscription and instead preserved the memory of the deceased with the single line, “este recuerdo”. Moved by the simplicity and elegance of the inscription, she was struck with an intense desire to document and give life to memories that have shaped and formed her life. Begun in 2001, the series developed over three years.

When viewing Kathy Vargas’s images, what strikes one first is her extraordinary ability to create an almost surreal visual dissonance.   Mysterious, complex, intimate, her images are like portals into shared cultural memories. They indicate movement through time as well as space. Punctuated with the constant clash of recurring elements, this series suggests a place where remembering endures. Like true memories that are neither in Technicolor nor drenched in sepia, these images are bathed in what one imagines is a more primal and firmly rooted palette, hues that bring clarity.  Este Recuerdo is an ode to a family’s history. More than a collection of captured moments, this work reminds us that it is the people who filled those brief moments that make life worth remembering.

Arturo Infante Almeida
The University of Texas at San Antonio


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