Sandra Brewster joins people and places in her Artpace exhibition, Lullaby of Birdland. Leaning along the gallery walls, you’ll find five distinct panels, four of which showcase a person Sandra encountered while walking around San Antonio. These striking images have been meticulously transferred onto wooden panels using gel transfers, leaving behind the visible borders of each paper and the intentional placement required to construct the larger image. Brewster skillfully captures these individuals in the midst of everyday activities: strolling, conversing, and simply embracing the city in an unscripted and authentic way.
The photo-based gel transfer technique imparts an antique photographic quality to each panel, marked by sporadic splotches and subtle creases reminiscent of aged photographs. The sepia tonality throughout the exhibit references history and memory. Notably, the far panel, distinguished by its absence of a human figure, showcases the terrain in Eagle Pass, the home of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. The significance of this inclusion lives in the historical depth of the land, inviting contemplation about the countless individuals who once walked this very soil. It reminds us that we all contribute to the ongoing tapestry of history: the people navigating the streets of downtown San Antonio, the Kickapoo community in Eagle Pass, and all those who preceded us. In this collective memory, we are united, present, writing our unique stories into the chapters of time.
Across from the paneled photographs sits a seawall constructed with wood, foam, and concrete. This interactive seawall serves as a tribute to one located in Guyana, the homeland of Brewster’s parents, which serves both personal and practical functions. Rich family stories revolve around this monumental structure, and the artist herself has traversed its length, a journey captured in a video projected in the gallery’s far corner. While the Guyanese sea wall is covered in advertisements from businesses (as seen in the video), symbolizing the way capitalism can infringe on people’s ability to lead free and sustainable lives, the recreated seawall in the gallery mimics images of the land through flowers and greenery. Brewster told Artpace, “The recent oil discovery seems to be turning Guyana into a very expensive space, one that is attracting tourism. There is a fear of the widening gap between the rich and poor.”
The Guyanese-inspired seawall and the video, juxtaposed with the photographic panels portraying individuals in San Antonio, create an overlap of time and space. By allowing visitors to engage with the recreated seawall, the artist invites more people to partake in this temporal suspension, where the boundaries between places dissolves. In this way, Brewster’s installation becomes a compelling embodiment of the intersection between personal history, global dynamics, and the human experience.