Many remarkable artists in San Antonio just don’t get highlighted enough and to that, I say basta! As a women-founded platform, Unfiltered San Antonio is committed to highlighting amazing women artists year-round. This month we are spicing things up with our “Women Talk Art” series. So please sit back, relax, and enjoy reading the artists’ anecdotes, their take on the art community, and artist practice.
Suzy González is an artist, curator, zinester, educator, and community organizer based in San Antonio, TX. Giving attention to the origins of both food and art materials, she analyzes what it means to decolonize art and art history. She co-publishes Yes, Ma’am zine, co-organizes the San Anto Zine Fest, and is half of the collective Dos Mestizx. She received a 2017 National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) Fund for the Arts Grant, is a 2018 alum of the NALAC Leadership Institute, and a 2019 alum of the Intercultural Leadership Institute and NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program. Suzy holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from Texas State University.
What’s your earliest art memory?
I grew up with my Mom’s collection of Rivera, Klimt, and Picasso prints in our home alongside Southwest Native American imagery. We also had colorful masks and small treasures from Mexico or Venezuela that my Dad would bring from his travels. So although we didn’t go to art exhibits, I did get to grow up with art in the home. I remember checking out library books on how to draw and how to make things with household items. I would copy cartoons, draw people from magazines, and make characters out of toilet paper rolls and wooden spoons. I also once stapled a bunch of paper together and scribbled and illustrated family recipes or recipes I invented. I still do this with my Xicana Vegan zine series! I picked up some cheap oil paints when I was 18 and never stopped. Some of us maintain the creative momentum that we’re born with, and some of us don’t, but I think we are all capable.
What is an essential thing to have in the studio?
As someone who wears a lot of hats, it’s so important, but also difficult, to prioritize time for making art. I begin to get stressed out when I don’t spend time in the studio, then when I do get the chance, all my other problems disappear, and I can just get lost and messy in creating. Painting is truly meditative for me. I find myself breathing deeply to focus, and I like listening to ambient music to zone out. I have a garage studio, so when I take breaks, I work on gardening. Connecting to the earth is not unlike connecting with one’s creative spirit. I think isolation is also important—to be able to work without any inhibitions. Practically, it’s also vital for me to have a sink and ventilation!
How much of your work is research-based, and how much is a personal narrative?
The research I do is really just reading up on things that interest me, not necessarily with the intention to make work based on it, although that is likely. I’m invested in decolonizing diet, food justice, and how human and animal rights are intrinsically tied to one another. I’m much more of a nonfiction reader, and I don’t ever want to stop learning—if only we had all the time in our lives to read all the books we want! The personal is always there, but it has conceptual tendencies. It has shown up more recently with material usage and my family ancestry, but I also want to get closer to the narratives of those around me and to learn about their ancestries too. I think a lot about how the internal relates to the external and the commonality of problems that a lot of us are probably going through—anxiety for one. Research can also come from speaking with someone; it doesn’t require a publication.
If art is a way of communicating from a distance, what’s your message to the world?
That we are all more alike than we have been led to believe—humans, animals, and plants across this planet. We are complex individuals, but we are also collectively just trying to live our best lives, take care of those we love, and to do the best for those that will follow. Doing this together will prove to be more productive than going at it alone. I think when we get so worked up over politics or someone cutting us off in traffic, we forget how powerful love and compassion can be.
If any artist/curator could mentor you, who would it be?
I’m grateful to have found mentorship from a variety of voices over the years—even if it comes just in one sentence that offers a chance for learning. I can’t say I have one dream mentor, haha, but those who I look up to the most are the strong women in my life. I feel more attentive when they speak because I don’t want to miss any shared knowledge. In addition to advice from my elders, there is also so much to learn from our youth. Being in my 30s feels like being in the middle of a generational sandwich. But it’s such a beautiful thing to know how our ancestors have survived to bring us all to where we are today, and that future generations will continue to progress forward. I think we are all both student and teacher, and both roles take a lot of patience and listening.
What aspects of the industry/SA art community would you like to challenge/change this 2020?
My partner Michael Menchaca and I have been vocal about the City of San Antonio’s censorship of one of the works in the exhibit that we co-curated, XicanX: New Visions at Centro de Artes. A huge takeaway is realizing how much those who govern our city do not reflect many of those who live here. We should always be challenging the past and the present when it comes to our freedom of expression to ensure that we are all able to express our voices through the arts—even in City-managed spaces. It is evident that the City has their work cut out to ensure this, but I remain hopeful that this incident can be a marker that artists will not stand for having our work and our voices erased. Further, when it comes to difficult issues or imagery, I highly value the ability for it to create dialogue. Once we stop talking and start putting up stubborn walls, we are preventing the ability for learning and growing.
Who are some of the artists we should keep an eye out for 2020?
In Texas, Barbara Miñarro, Jonathan Treviño, Anthony Francis, Natalia Rocafuerte, Madison Serna, Jesusa Marie Vargas, Lisa Guevara, Michael Villarreal, Miguel Rodriguez, Josie Del Castillo, Jesus Treviño, Maclovio Cantu IV, Clarissa Gonzalez, Irene Antonia Diane Reece, Nabil Gonzalez.