I’m in full favor of friendships that come together and empower each other to create art, push boundaries, and share their narratives —but, I mean, who isn’t? A few days after the opening of Flor Ameira’s and Bárbara Miñarro’s two-person exhibition of Comisura/Commissure at Terminal 136, I skyped with them as they spilled the tea on their latest collaboration.
It all began when Ameira and Miñarro met in an Art History course as undergraduate students at the University of Texas at San Antonio a little over five years ago. Both artists noticed the other to be native Spanish-speakers and immediately exchanged phone numbers. Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Ameira shared that her friendship with Miñarro, born in Monterrey, Mexico, and later raised in the Rio Grande Valley, came about in a very organic and natural way. Throughout their years of friendship, they have always supported each other’s artistic endeavors and hoped to one day collaborate on an exhibition.
That day has arrived, and their exhibition at Terminal 136, as UTSA alumnae, holds a special place in their hearts. “Studying at UTSA, we saw how all the graduate students exhibited at Terminal 136, and we strived to one day also show there,” stated Miñarro. She continued, “Last year, we came across the open call at Terminal 136, and we just had to apply for it.” What began as a proposed exhibition centered around the idea of home naturally developed into a playful narrative about their friendship. For the exhibition, Ameira and Miñarro use photographs, sculptures, and textiles to create a collage of their bilingualism, biculturalism, and bi-nationality where their kinship meets.
As for the exhibition title, they shared that it developed as naturally as their friendship. First conceived of in Spanish, “comisura” (commissures) is defined as the point where borders from an organism meet. When asked about how they came up with the title, they laughed and admitted it seemed scientific. Ameira said the word sounded better in Spanish but justified it to be reflective of her friendship with Miñarro, as well as the themes, mediums, and processes seen in the exhibition. Deemed poetic in every sense of the word, Miñarro elaborated by saying, “They took [the title] literally and not so literally. Despite [each of us] having very unique experiences, there is also a shared history.” “We also explored it physically,” Ameira chimed in enthusiastically. The commissures are seen within Miñarro’s textiles and soft sculpture, as well as in Ameira’s mixed media pieces and photographs.
Bárbara Miñarro is well known for her large-scale, soft-sculpture installations that utilize the physical memory of clothing, the earth, and the physical body to express the emotional journey of immigration. In this exhibition, Miñarro introduces a new, self-taught practice of textile weaving known as tufting seen in Security, 2020; More American, 2020; You Took Me Home, 2019, RGV, 2019; Tres, 2020; Uno, 2020; and Just Do It, 2020. Further explaining what each image represented, she recalled when she first received her social security, she felt a sense of belonging and security. The artist refers to the series as a love letter to the Rio Grande Valley but also a reflective narrative made up of “context clues” of the space in between her two homes—in Mexico and the United States.
In Let’s Try to Stay Here, Miñarro uses reclaimed clothing items, including her grandmother’s bedsheets, her mother’s clothing, her own garments, and items from other women important to her today. The exhibition description states, “she reclaims these objects that once epitomized nostalgic memories into distorted limb-like forms. This process of transformation blurs the perimeter of characteristics that identify her.” As the placement of her installations varies and adapts to different exhibition spaces, Miñarro explores the idea that “environments can affect identities, dictate relationships, and change the way that bodies navigate through familial spaces and abstract borders.”
Similarly, Ameira also uses distortions and restrictions of the body to explore the constant embrace and rejection of her relationship with her surroundings. She often photographs an unrecognizable body feature covered in pantyhose to portray her conflicted feelings on the relationship with her surroundings. For this exhibition, Ameira shared she had asked her mother what she thought “comisura” meant. Her mother responded by shaping her mouth in a circular motion and pointing to the corners of the mouth where the upper and lower lips meet. A comedic interaction between mother and daughter encouraged Ameira to focus on the mouth, as seen in Comisuras, according to Mom, where she stays true to some of her staple mediums. Ameira incorporates Campeche wax and flowers native to her hometown in Chihuahua and San Antonio, where she currently resides, to her photographs and installations.
Ameira thought about what commissures meant to her, her mom, and what it meant to this show. She experimented with crepe paper as seen in Commissures of everything I thought a She should be and Commissures of everything I thought a He should be. Ameira commented, “crepe paper can be recognized as something people associate it with their childhood or Mexico, and it’s very nostalgic. Drawing from that familiar material and working with it in new ways was intimidating at first. She continued, “I would question why I was doing this—exploring this material so publicly. But it helped me a lot knowing that Barbara was also exploring mediums she hadn’t used before.”
Both artists challenged each other to try new materials and processes. Miñarro remarked, “you don’t want to get too comfortable in a medium,” and this exhibition based on trust and friendship created a safe space to experiment—especially when it came down to collaborate on some of the works on paper. I Thought I was Growing seemed to be Ameira’s favorite collaborative piece. “I feel like it’s such a specific example of both practices merging to one. The fact that we used the opaque fabric over the head and made the body anonymous seemed like the best of both of our staple materials and presentations. It felt like we merged,” she said.
The collaborative photographs captured a literal and figurative type of growth as individuals but also as friends. Miñarro shared, “this past year felt like a deep-dive—figuring out who I am as a young adult and emerging professional, asking those hard questions, and seeing how friendships help along the way.” That’s what friends are for: to hear you out, support you, and reel you back in when you are too caught up in your head. Relying on their friendship, Ameira and Miñarro had fun with the series of Everything to Prevent Tea Spilling and Spilled Tea. Whether interpreted as physically or figuratively close, it sheds light on an intimate and vulnerable dynamic between two people. The tensions that derive from the yarn and reflective poses create elaborate compositions that leave the viewer wanting to know more.
As to their overall collaboration, Minarro shared she felt the importance of sisterhood, relationships between women, and supporting each other. Ameira nodded yes when I asked if they were going to collaborate in the future. I hope they do! I saw their friendship through playful interactions during our bilingual conversation that contained laughter, provoked thought, and sparked dialogue on what it means to be Latina in the United States. Both artists shared that they will be focusing on upcoming projects in their studios, so please give them a follow on Instagram (@flor.ameria and @barbaraminarro) to stay up-to-date on their artistic endeavors.
This exhibition is free and open to the public.
On view February 6 – 22, 2020
UTSA Terminal 136
136 Blue Star St.
San Antonio, TX 78204
Regular Hours: Thursday – Saturday, noon to 5pm
Contact Houston.Fryer@utsa.edu | 210.758.6246