Originally posted 02/16/2017 |
From the Spring 2017 Issue
Despite being accustomed to expressing himself through his own works, UTSA art professor Richard Armendariz ’95 was having a problem tapping into himself as he sat looking into a camera while waiting to have his portrait shot. Photographer Ramin Samandari knew that “I’d just gone through a divorce,” Armendariz says of his emotional state at the time. “So there was a lot of pain there—as you might well imagine.”
“‘Think about your son,’” Armendariz says the photographer encouraged him. “So I did. In that, I found something to smile about.” Samandari captured the play of emotions that day as part of San Antonio Faces of Art, his years-in-the-making project highlighting Alamo City artists.
The fact that the 250-plus portrait project features so many UTSA alumni and faculty—who are working artists like Armendariz—is a point of pride for the university. Soon, 100 of these portraits will go on display as part of the university’s art collection.
“In the past we’ve not had any material—photographic material—about San Antonio movers and shakers in the art world,” says Arturo Infante Almeida, the university’s art specialist and curator for the UTSA Art Collection. “It’s a really good addition for UTSA.” Almeida helped to select the portraits to purchase for the university. For him, the interest in art isn’t just professional but also personal. He is also one of the artists included in Samandari’s Faces project.
Other Roadrunners in the series include Kent Rush, photographer and professor as well as one of the founding members of downtown San Antonio’s Blue Star Arts Complex and cocurator of 2015’s UTSA printmaking exhibit Veinticinco; painter, alumna, and lecturer Soomin Jung M.F.A. ’08; longtime art curator and supporter Patricia Ruiz-Healy M.A. ’05 [watch our video profile of Ruiz-Healy, “To a Fine Art”]; and internationally known sculptor and alumnus Jesse Amado ’78, B.F.A. ’87, M.F.A. ’90, whose pieces have been exhibited at Ruiz-Healy’s gallery. Amado has also donated papers to the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.
“The arts are an important part of cultural identity, and UTSA is a community leader,” says photographer and professor Libby Rowe, also featured in the series. “We educate not only artists but art connoisseurs. UTSA is commendable for this dedication to supporting artists in our community. The university is setting a glowing example.”
Michele Monseau M.F.A. ’98, who is a UTSA new media lecturer and artist also in Faces, echoes the sentiment that such a legacy project is needed. “We haven’t had anyone thoroughly chronicle or archive the art, music, and other creative participants in the art scene here until now,” she says. “I was happy to participate, knowing Ramin and his work for years, and since I had seen some of the pieces he had already done for this project. It can be difficult to capture this kind of ‘inner state’ without being sappy or clichéd—or it looking like a Hollywood head shot. Ramin did it beautifully with a certain stark gravity but also with optimism. It’s quite a feat.”
Samandari’s own relationship with the university dates back roughly a decade—from his inclusion in various exhibits to other pieces of his work that are now part of the UTSA Art Collection, located across the university’s campuses.
“I think UTSA is unique in its support of so many local artists by purchasing their work or exhibiting them,” Samandari says. “I can’t think of any other institution in San Antonio—university or otherwise—that has done this. I can see only positive effects for the student body to be exposed to art like this, not only for art students but in general.”