Common Currents is a diverse showcase of San Antonio’s history as told by 300 local artists at 6 art-centric venues. Drawing on the connections that run through San Antonio’s vibrant creative community, each of the organizing partners began by inviting two artists. These initial artists were then asked to invite two peer artists until more than 300 were amassed. All of the participating artists are assigned one year of San Antonio’s history to reflect on in the development of their work for Common Currents. This exhibition is presented chronologically through a variety of contemporary media. More information on Common Currents is at commoncurrents.org.
Artpace San Antonio hosts artists responding to San Antonio’s first 50 years (1718-1768).
Artists By Year
1718 Mark Menjivar
Yanaguana limestone reliquary containing a cloth relic of St. Anthony, patron saint of that which has been lost.
1719 Julie Ledet
La Louisiane to the East speaks to the forced migration of 200 Canary Islander families (Isleños) to the Presidio San Antonio de Bexar that was initiated in 1719. It would take until 1731 for the settlers, comprised mostly of laborers or military families, to arrive. After years of traveling by boat over water and on foot by land, only 15 families survived the trek. Similarly, New Orleans was experiencing their own migratory currents around this time, and by 1731 Isleños were settling the Mississippi River as well. My great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother was born in 1731 in the Canary Islands, and would eventually settle in La Louisiane where maps would describe the area as the land of “Mistaken Indians and Cannibals.” The installation is a culmination of notes written while researching the land and the people as well as my own ancestry, making connections and finding the common current between these peoples and the social injustice toward the Native inhabitants.
1720 Charles Harrison Pompa
Our San Antonio River is the heart and life force of our city now and in the past and the Blue Hole Springs its source. Pompa’s circular 3d mixed media painting sculpture conveys our native San Antonio River and springs ecosystem landscape and habitat representing 1720 and the earliest years prior to our built cultural environment. The exterior is the river with plants and animals and the interior represents an underwater river perspective of a microcosym of native species in Pompa’s contemporary style and form.
1721 Kathleen Baker Pittman
The San Antonio River is the source and support of life and inspiration.
1722 William Zwartjes
A first crude presidio was established near San Pedro creek in May 1718 by the Governor of Coahuila, Don Martin de Alarcon and named San Antonio de Valero in honor of the Marques de Valero, Viceroy of Mexico. However, 1722 was especially important when the Marques de Aguayo returned to San Antonio with General Almazen and moved the primitive presidio to a site between the San Pedro creek and San Antonio de Padua river. A larger, square presidio was placed 30 varas [82.3 ft.] from the creek and 200 varas [548.5 ft.] from the river. The new presidio, located at the opening to the loop in the river, had fortifications, permanent stone buildings and an improved irrigation system. The Plaza de Armas [now Military Plaza] was established as a parade ground for Spanish soldiers.
About 1722 the first mission was moved to the east side of the river near the present-day St. Joseph’s church due to friction between the military and padres over authority. Records show the padre to be Fr. Joseph Gonzales and note the burial of Manuel Maldonado, a soldier of the presidio. The main Indians at the mission were Xarame, with Pauigan, Pamaya, Paquache, and Siguausan among the other tribes represented. [E.W.Heusinger, F.C.Chabot, J.C.Butterfield, J.D.Eaton]
1723 John Tyson
This piece stands to inform the viewer of the Lipan Apache residing in San Antonio and their attempt to keep their culture and lifestyle intact, during the entrance of Spanish and Mexican settlers into south Texas. The information provided sets the tone, the arrows show the Lipan Apache’s will to fight, while the burnt edges symbolize the erasure of their history.
1724 Michele Monseau
The Coahuiltecan were the nomadic indigenous people living in San Antonio and surrounding areas in 1724. That year, a severe storm, possibly a hurricane, destroyed the original Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero) at San Pedro Springs, which was simply a series of huts that had been used by the Spanish missionaries to indoctrinate the Coahuiltecan into Christianity. That same year after the storm, construction began on the “new” Alamo at the location where it now sits, and where this process of indoctrination continued. This piece foregrounds the Coahuiltecan wickiup-the impermanent, portable dwellings they constructed out of brush and branches-in a black and white, somewhat removed image that is in the process of being airbrushed/disintegrated into the landscape. Behind the wickiup and bleeding through it is an image of the Alamo on its current site shortly after it was reduced to ruins. The layered structures sit high in a harsh landscape with gathering clouds-a coming storm. A page of text used in the missionaries’ enculturation/indoctrination process entitled “Fallacías del Demonio Que Destruyen lá Caridad (Fallacies of the Demon That Destroys Charity)” hovers over and intrudes on the landscape. The Coahuiltecan hunted javelina and wore coyote skins in winter, thus the appearance of these animals in the motif.
1725 Paul Soupiset
This piece employs the style of 17th century colonial primers-simple, childlike, didactic verses-paired with a visual process that attempts to step humbly into the tradition of papel picado. I explore/appropriate both the colonialist’s catechistic style as well as the indigenous Pueblo-Huixcolotlan cut-paper artform. I explore the top-down-versus-grassroots ambivalences therein that echo the tensions among Catholic missionaries vis-à-vis Spanish officers (and between the larger institutions each represented), and among the Lipan Apaches who had inhabited parts of Texas for hundreds of years prior.
Little is recorded about local life in 1725 Viceregal San Antonio. One inhabitant at Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1725, Father José González, argued with the captain of the Presidio of San Antonio de Bejár over the treatment of the Apaches. “…overcome by his desires of peace with the Apaches1”, González was recalled to Querétaro, but never made it; reports say he “perished on the road.2” Another inhabitant, Father Francisco Hidalgo “grieved to see the repeated slaughter which resulted from the war with the Apaches3” and sought permission to evangelize the Apaches. His request denied, he left San Antonio dejected only to die a year later, heartbroken.
1. Weddle, Robert S. San Juan Bautista; Gateway to Spanish Texas. University of Texas Press, 1968, 156-157.
2. Castañeda, Carlos Eduardo. The Mission Era …: by Carlos E. Castañeda, .. Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936, 253.
3. Weddle, Robert S. The San Sabá Mission: Spanish Pivot in Texas. Texas A&M University Press College Station, 1999, 3.
1726 Cody Vance
Deep bas relief depicting the story of forced interaction between the indigenous tribes of the area, Spaniard explorers and the beginning construction of the Catholic mission settlements.
1727 Mira Hnatyshyn
The year 1727 represented a lull in fighting between Native Americans and Spanish colonialists as they began construction of a 2 ½-mile irrigation canal that would one day feed San Antonio. The King of Spain offered free land to subjects willing to live in this harsh new world and several hundred answered the call, including a contingent of Canary Islanders. Once here, they either converted or enslaved Native Americans from several tribes, but were disappointed with both the quality and effort of their labors. Death and starvation were common, and some Islanders literally went native, “marrying” into the tribes and gradually forging a new identity. So, the circle of life repeated itself, with the unspoken struggles of women forming the beginning of an enduring community, which developed through cycles of boom and bust that persist to this day.
1728 Christopher Martinez
Christopher “Rooster” Martinez is a spoken word poet and educator from San Antonio, TX. He is a graduate student at OLLU’s MA/MFA program in Creative Writing, Literature and Social Justice. Christopher is an organizer with Fresh Ink Youth Slam and co-founded the Blah Poetry Spot. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Button Poetry, The Huffington Post Latino Voices, the Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Pilgrimage Press, and Sagebrush Review.
Ten-Years-Young is a performance poem which interweaves the narrative of early, San Antonio history with the San Anto touchstone of blended cultural identities during those early years. The poem will address early-Spanish and Catholic influences, reference early settlements and construction that took place from the city’s inception, and present the Indigenous populations and the religious indoctrination which took place. The poem seeks to balance the early mestizaje historia of the city by being fair to both the light and dark cultural histories imbedded in blood and soul of San Antonio. Christopher believes poetry is the result of a thorough meditation of the light and heavy aspects of life, history, and culture, and where they intersect.
1729 Mari Hernandez
1730 Ervin Raska
1731 Henry Cardenas
Armed with a decree from Spain’s King Philip V, 56 settlers from the Canary Islands arrived in the Presidio de San Antonio on March 9, 1731. This band of exhausted immigrants traveled across the ocean to Havana, Veracruz, then onward to Texas to begin a new life. They joined the military community established in 1718. The immigrants formed the nucleus of the villa of San Fernando de Bexar, the first regularly organized civil government in Texas. These brave men and women brought their customs, dress, and foods. My painting depicts their traditional dress.
1732 Laura Mijangos
In 1732 there were several groups of people congregating in the San Antonio area-there was the native Caldoan tribe, who were hunters and gatherers, the Spanish settlers, the Canary Island recruits, who were farmers, and the Lipan Apache Indians. I chose to focus on the women of that time by depicting one that represents them all: a compilation of their varied cultures. However disparate their mores, they each struggled to overcome challenges in an attempt to survive amidst a harsh climate, food shortages, and violence. This piece is an attempt to capture the essence of their courage and ascension beyond boundaries.
1733 Kathrine Maple
July 23rd, 1733 Captain General Jose de Urrutia from Spain was appointed as Captain of San Antonio de Bexar Presidio (known today as the Spanish Governor’s Palace). His appointment was due to being the best informed of all Spaniards on Indian affairs in Texas. The Presidio furnished escorts for officials and supply trains as well as protection for the priests at the five nearby missions and families who came to settle in San Antonio. The keystone above the front entrance is marked with the coat-of-arms of Spanish King Ferdinand VI.
1735 Joseph Erik Montano
The Last of the Famous International Faithboys is an interactive assembled media piece that examines the historical paradox between the resettlement of the Spanish presidios in the 1730s to San Antonio and the quick decline of the missions due to raids and the dying influence of Spain on the region. Viewers are invited to maneuver the mirror to reflect different colors and watch the words of the poem become masked. The piece is accompanied by a musical composition that utilizes phasing to reflect the historical contrast, where the selected tones of the composition, along with the lines of the poem, match the assigned year.
1736 Arturo Infante Almeida
In the early eighteenth century, exploration and settlement along the banks of the river and around recently built missions, expressed the continuing clash of two worlds. Today, the impact of that history continues to resonate in the customs, traditions and cultures of San Antonio.
1737 Jennifer Datchuk
Historical texts places Juan Banul, a Belgium Texan, as the only blacksmith living and working at the Presidio de San Antonio in 1737. Blacksmiths at this time were responsible for making items to run a household like cooking utensils, fire tongs, cauldrons, and candle holders. They use fire, tools, and hammering to turn iron into functional objects. The “1737 Collection” is inspired by forged objects through a contemporary design and craft sense. My objects are created with an iron rich clay and hand pinched to reveal the mark of the hand and the repetitive process.
1738 Andrew Leo Stansbury
Translation of proceedings relative to the petition from residents of San Fernando to Orobio y Bazterra for aid: “[…] because of the uncommon plague of locusts with which we are beset at present in consequence of our sins and, which are continuously ruining the crops that have. been planted, we have come to the conclusion that unless God in His divine mercy takes pity on us, we shall be in danger of starving, since we do not have any more seed to plant during the cold season when the locusts die.”
1739 Carrie Edelmann Avery
This piece is a reflection upon the emotions felt by native people occupying land in the San Antonio area in 1739. Torn by a desire to honor their traditional way of living and the instinct to survive, many turned to the developing missions in desperation. With disease brought by incoming settlers running rampant, populations of the nomadic people dwindled. Many people of the land left everything they knew behind for hope of the future.
1740 Clay McClure
Struggling with European diseases and a decimated population, some indigenous people found refuge in the missions in exchange for assimilation. Their skeletal remains are a silent reminder of sacrifice and this chair is in response to those souls.
1741 Gissette Padilla
1742 Jeremiah Teutsch
A portrait of Padre Benito Ferníçndez de Santa Ana, based on a description from the clairvoyant Gharith Pendragon. Padre Benito Ferníçndez de Santa Ana was a priest in San Antonio, and in 1742, along with Toribio de Urrutia, he started a campaign against the Apache Indians.
1743 Ray Whitehouse
In 1743, a prominent Spanish priest living near present-day Mission Concepcion wrote a letter to the viceroy of New Spain. Father Benito Ferníçndez de Santa Ana wrote that his Apache informants had encountered a small group of Comanche Indians who were badly outnumbered but refused to surrender or retreat. The Apaches decided to kill all but one Comanche and sent him back as a warning to stay away from San Antonio. Led by the lone survivor, the Comanches returned to attack the village, successfully supplanting the Apaches as the most dominant tribe in the area.
1745 Joe Raymond Vega
1745 was the year that the historic Espada Acequia was completed, a canal system used to bring water from the San Antonio River to the Missions and irrigate crops. The construction and operation of the Acequias was supervised by the Franciscan Friars and labor was completed by native slaves and Spanish soldiers.
I wanted to create an interactive piece that reflects the trauma of genocide and forced labor. The audio samples I generated, as well as working in the key of D-flat Major, help the listener envision an eerie, foreboding environment. I was also inspired to include nostalgic Cicada songs, to give a glimpse of the outdoors in San Antonio in 1745, connecting Then to Now.
Lastly, for me, it is imperative that the viewer engage with my piece by directly communicating with the machines.
1746 Karen Mahaffy
.79 caliber hand-cast lead ball, 5.85 drams (160 grains) black gunpowder, hand-cut cotton shot patch, glass shell vial, custom brass bracket; archival inkjet prints: reproduction of letter dated March 11, 1746 by Manuel Ramírez de la Piszina, Bexar Archives, [identifier number: di_11170, di_11171], The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin; and translation; reclaimed longleaf pine.
½ arroba of gunpowder = 12.5 pounds
1 pound = 7000 grains = 256 drams
1 dram = 27 11/32 grains
Rifles use 1 to 2 grains per caliber of bore size.
Prior to the development of the Spanish M1752 musket, the Spanish arquebus (or harquebus) ranged in caliber between .79-.90.
.80 caliber rifle would use upwards of 160 grains
or 5.85 drams
½ arroba = 87,500 grains
= 546 shots
1747 Tyler Rutherford
The background image is a detail of the north side of the Espada Aqueduct and the foreground image is a map of the missions of San Antonio by Luis Antonio Menchaca published in 1764.
1748 Connie Swann
If you wanted the most vivid color of red in 1748, you had to harvest an insect that lived on only two species of cactus native to south Texas and the New World. The Aztecs called it nocheztli. The Spanish called it cochinilla.
Cochineal red was a highly desired export to the Old World, second to silver, for almost 300 years. It wasn’t until the fall of the Spanish empire in the Americas that cochineal started its decline while production began to flourish in the Canary Islands.
Inspired by the indigenous color of our region, locally sourced cochineal was utilized for this work.
1749 Joe Harjo
This performance print records a contemporary Native American Indian, myself, carrying out the act of standing, breathing and simply existing, creating a dialog between indigenous peoples, both past and present. The span of time described in the title references the millennia of Native habitation versus the relatively brief 300 years of forced assimilation including loss of language, religion, culture, identity, and life.
1750 Katie Pell
San Fernando cathedral, completed in 1750. Part of the history, not the beginning nor the end.
1751 Noël Bella Merriam
Our Lady of Candelaria is the patroness of the Canary Islands. It is said that her statue washed ashore on the island of Tenerife in 1392. The aboriginal Guanche people of the island associated this medieval sculpture of a beautiful, dark-sinned woman with their goddess Chaxiraxi and worshiped her in a cave. When the Spanish Isleños (Canary Islanders) built San Fernando Cathedral (1738-1755) they dedicated it to both Nuestra Señora de Candelaria and the patroness of Mexico, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. My painting is a vision of Our Lady of Candelaria which might have sustained Isleños who labored on the San Fernando Cathedral. It blends her image with the half-finished cathedral and memories of the home they left behind – the sunshine, beaches and sacred cave of Tenerife Island. I find this aspect of San Antonio’s history powerful and meaningful since I was raised Catholic and had a medal of the Virgin Mary which I cherished as a child. Completing San Fernando Cathedral given the difficulty in obtaining funds from the Spanish crown must have seemed to be a miraculous feat blessed by Our Lady of Candelaria.
1752 Francesca Simonite
Growing up in a family of photographers in San Antonio has caused me to question how photography has influenced the way I understand my own experiences and memories. In an attempt to explore the subjectivity and reality of the visual image, I physically alter photographs shot on 35mm film with text. I believe that written words and numbers work in similar ways as the photograph itself beyond both functioning as time stamps. I question whether the act of cutting, dissecting, and rearranging my personal archive of seemingly arbitrary photographs and text makes these moments truer to my original experiences, or just as false as a single frame or print.
1753 Raul Gonzalez
My artwork is a reflection of Jesus F. de la Teja’s book “San Antonio de Bexar: A Community on New Spain’s Northern Frontier.”
1754 Samuel Morales Urbina
By 1754, political and socioeconomic factors were shaping the integration of native and foreign communities in south Texas, circumstances that would consequently give birth to a new Tejano culture. This nine-color screen print (Tcalāux: “to give birth” in Coahuiltecan) presents an experience rather than an event, and aims to convey the idea of struggle and the unavoidable unification between Indigenous and Spanish opposing forces.
The Indigenous culture is personified by native fauna and flora of Texas, depicting a collared peccary, superimposed over a green background with a pattern of foliage and seedpods from the Mesquite Tree. The Spanish culture is personified by a canary mastiff, a natural symbol of the Canary Islands, superimposed over a blue background and a wave pattern representing the national motto of Spain-“Plus Ultra” or “Further Beyond.”
1756 Laura Varela
This piece takes us on a visual and audio phonic journey through the water ways of Yanaguana, “the place of clear waters,” now known as San Antonio. It explores symbolism in nature that ties Varela’s relationship with her personal bloodline as Xicana. In 1756 the indigenous populations began their decline in the area; however, many will tell you that we are still here. Water, spiderwebs, the crane, and the cardinal are all symbols for those who are reconnecting to their ancestral ways, recognizing indigenous bloodlines, and being part of the movement in our communities for social justice. This work is not only a visual exploration but also a meditation on these symbols and our connection to nature. This piece is dedicated to the all indigenous people who walked this land and still walk this land today.
1757 Shannon Gowen
Mission Concepción was dedicated in 1755, and appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. It stands proudly as the oldest unrestored stone church in America. In its heyday, colorful geometric designs covered its surface, but the patterns have long since faded. In 1757 work began on the construction of an enclosing stone defensive wall for the compound. The first mission compound was originally enclosed by a wall that had fallen into disrepair by the time the new church was constructed. Apache raids of the San Antonio missions led to the enclosure of all five missions within stone defensive walls by 1760.
1758 Jenn Rodriguez
The piece I chose to make for this exhibition is centered around the completion of the original San Fernando de Béxar Church. I created a two-color reduction linocut that incorporates the design of both states of the church; the completed structure as it once was in the 1700s and the subtle impression of the cathedral which shares some of its walls today, making it one of the oldest churches in America.
1759 Rhys Munro
The dome shaped structure depicted, a typical dwelling used by the native Coahuiltecan tribes, is meant to honor their historical presence. Called “wikiups”, these homes were made of bent wood, brush, and animal skins. The fragmented composition symbolizes the displacement and “absorption” of the indigenous peoples throughout the 1700’s when Spain colonized what is now modern day San Antonio.
1760 Jason Kirkland
This assemblage of found objects focuses on the importance of religion in San Antonio while under Spanish rule in 1760. That was the year King Charles III declared the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception to be a special patroness of Spain and all its eastern and western territories.
1761 Samuel Velasquez
Forming expresses that even relatively quiet years can still have an impact on the present. The formation, establishment, and trials of the people living in the missions of San Antonio were the building blocks that would later become this city.
1762 Georgia Zwartjes
Water was the source of life for the people, animals and plants of La Villa of San Fernando de Bexar. On August 16, 1762, several male citizens presented a petition requesting distribution of waters from San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River. The following day, the Governor was accompanied by the greater part of the community to a place north of the villa where water was most abundant. A citizen, Geranimo Flores, determined the best irrigable lands were situated between the San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River. In order to take advantage of these water sources, a dam and canal would need to be built. The dam would be constructed of limestone. The canal would be located atop a hill called Loma de la Vieja. This was the preferred site, as water could easily flow through the favored lands.
This fiber art piece, Fruits of the River, represents some of the elements of life dependent on water and critical to the citizens and residents of the villa: corn, mesquite beans, chilies, acorns, pecans, cotton and wool.
1763 Catherine Cisneros
Some reports describe the broad plains of San Antonio de Padua as the most beautiful in New Spain with grass as high as a horse’s chest. Although by 1763 the five Missions were established in San Antonio, San Antonio was still surrounded by broad plains the most beautiful in New Spain and in many places the grass was as high as a horse’s chest, the stars were breathtakingly brilliant and the fireflies were a wonder to behold.
1764 Joseph Duarte
Maestro is the story of the laborers who worked on the Missions.
1766 Casey Galloway
In researching 1766, I was struck by the amount of conflict between many of the native tribes in central/south Texas. Exacerbated by the growing numbers of European settlers and shrinking unoccupied land, clashes between the Coahuiltecan and Apache caused many to seek refuge in the newly established Spanish Missions. The purpose of these missions, according to the authorities, was to educate and Christianize the Natives in order to make them productive Spanish citizens. The native peoples who sought refuge supplied the labor in the construction of the missions, the acequias, and the farms that fed the community. This work is dedicated to them.
1767 Ramin Samandari
1767 was the year of arrival of Marques De Rubi to San Antonio. Rubi was sent by King Charles III of Spain to inspect the presidios of New Spain. Rubi’s report suggested that all the small Texas missions be closed except the one in Goliad and the missions of San Antonio.