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About the Artist and Exhibition
Willie Varela was born and lives in El Paso, Texas, on the border of the U.S. and Mexico.
His photography, film, and video works convey a pervasive emptiness in middle-class American
life or, antithetically, cathartic spirituality and death. By portraying both the remarkable and the
disturbing in our everyday existence, Varela asks the viewer to recall those things that should be
life's overarching concerns?mitment, purpose, and compassion.
A self-taught filmmaker and photographer, Varela began creating images in 1971after
reading two essays: an interview with John Lennon in Rolling Stone in which Lennon
spoke about the ease of creating 8mm home movies, and a profile of avant-garde filmmaker
Stan Brakhage from the book An Introduction to the American Underground Film by
Sheldon Renan. These two separate? very personal?nts of view inspired Varela to pick
up a camera to explore and express his own vision. Varela's imagery has a personal edge, and
his Mexican-American heritage plays into all of his work. He has said that as a young artist he
"wasn't looking for a filmic ?panglish,' but a visual language that would acknowledge the reality
that a Chicano must always have one eye pointing north and the other pointing south, with the
occasional luxury of both eyes actually gazing inward to the personhood that minorities are
usually denied, and that we often deny ourselves." Varela utilizes popular culture, television,
advertising media, and cemeteries along with his own history. By exploring what is familiar to
him and relating it to the world he lives in? largest international metroplex in the world (El
Paso and Juarez, Mexico), he is able to twist his experiences as a Chicano artist and a lapsed
Catholic into universal themes, blending personal and political.
ArtPace presents four new video installations by Varela. This Burning World, a
double-channel projection, is an exploration of the transitional space where urban environments
become something else, be it suburban, rural, or natural. In Detritus, the Remix, the
television is encased in a hollow, white pillar and can be accessed visually but not physically,
and only through a pair of peepholes. Its companion piece, Night Walking, is also
presented in this manner. In each, Varela simultaneously enshrines the TV set and makes it
taboo; the pillar references both a Catholic confessional and a façade for an X-rated peep show.
Business as Usual? Thoughts on the Events of September 11, 2001 explores the terrorist
attacks on the U.S that took place in 2001. Varela has said that his goal with these four works
within this installation is "to work with the moving image in different ways and to place it in
juxtaposition to other things in an attempt to broaden the meanings and implications of this
medium which we all live with and yet very rarely investigate."
Varela earned his M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from The University of Texas at El Paso in
1996 and is presently Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre Arts and Film at the
university. He has exhibited and published widely and in 1994 was the subject of a mid-career
retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he also exhibited in the Biennial
Exhibition in 1993 and 1995.
Coinciding with ArtPace's presentation, Blue Star Arts Space will show eighteen
photographs by Varela. Originally presented at The University of Texas at El Paso and the El
Paso Museum of Art, Crossing Over is the first major exhibition of Varela's work to
include both video installations and photographs. Crossing Over is accompanied by a
four-color publication with essays by independent curator William R. Thompson and by Kate
Bonansinga, Director of the Art Galleries at the University of Texas at El Paso. Following the
presentation in San Antonio, the exhibition will travel to the following venues: McKinney Avenue
Contemporary, Dallas, TX, September 13 ?tober 26, 2003; and Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin,
TX, January ?rch 2004.
Exhibition sponsors include: Texas Commission on the Arts; El Paso Museum of Art; Main
Gallery, Department of Art, The University of Texas at El Paso; College of Liberal Arts, The
University of Texas at El Paso; Department of Chicano Studies, The University of Texas at El
Paso; Department of Theater and Film, The University of Texas at El Paso; Department of Art,
New Mexico State University; and The City of El Paso Arts Resources Department.
Crossing Over: New Video Installations will be on exhibit April 15 through July 13,
2003 in the Hudson (Show)Room. Join us for a joint opening reception on Tuesday, April 15,
2003: at ArtPace from 6:30-7:30 PM with a gallery walk-through with the artist at 7:00 PM and at
Blue Star Arts Space (116 Blue Star, San Antonio) from 7:30-8:30 PM.
April 15 ?ly 13, 2003
Tuesday, April 15, 2003 at ArtPace: 6:30-7:30 PM with a gallery walk-thru with the artist at 7:00
PM; at Blue Star Art Space: 7:30-8:30 PM
Brown Bag Lunch
June 25, 2003, 12:00?0 PM
Join us for a tour of Crossing Over: New Video Installations and a brown bag lunch
provided by Pecan Street Deli. Please call ArtPace to make reservations.
ArtPace, A Foundation for Contemporary Art | San Antonio serves as an advocate for
contemporary art and as a catalyst for the creation of significant art projects. We seek to nurture
emerging and established artists and to provide opportunities for inspiration, experimentation,
and education. Through our International Artist-in-Residence Program, we invite 9 artists
annually to participate in a 2-month residency which supports the evolution of new ideas in art.
Our broad range of panels, lectures, artist talks, and studio visits cultivates diverse audiences
for contemporary art and provides a forum for ongoing dialogue.
ArtPace is located downtown at 445 N. Main Avenue, between Savings and Martin streets, San
Antonio, TX. Free parking is available on the corner of Savings and Flores streets. ArtPace is
open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 12-5 PM, Thursday, 12-8 PM, and by
appointment. Admission is free.
445 North Main Avenue San Antonio TX 78205 t 210 212 4900 f 210 212 4990 www.artpace.org
© 2003 Artpace San Antonio