South Texas artists heart Blood and Tissue Center
The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center strives to deliver the highest quality blood and tissue services for the lowest possible cost, but the center still manages to devote 1 percent of its construction budget to building a remarkable collection of contemporary art by San Antonio artists.
The center’s board recognizes the connection between healing the body and nurturing the soul. Many of the works in the center’s collection are made from recycled materials, celebrating the generous donors who share their life-giving blood.
The Donor Pavilion, the latest addition to the campus designed by Garza-Bomberger, features newly commissioned works ranging from a flock of box kites suspended over the main hallway by Stuart Allen, who created the reflective panels on the new Museum Reach of the San Antonio River, to a large photograph of an empty heart-shaped chocolate box by Chuck Ramirez, made poignant by the fact that the artist has undergone heart surgery.
“This is one of the best places in the city to see a broad range of work by local artists,” said Donna Simon, an artist who served on center’s selection committee. “I think the collection really does provide a glimpse into the city’s artistic soul.”
Most of the artists refer in one way or another to the center’s mission, often alluding to parts of the body and how they function. David Anthony Garcia’s “Duet” features red heartlike forms in a cosmic dance with the life force. Joey Fauerso’s “Open” is a watercolor of an open mouth, which reveals a star-splattered universe. Catherine Cunningham’s neon “Breathe” slowly changes color to the rhythm of breathing.
Tiny eyeballs peep out of Susan Budge’s arrangement of ceramic wall pieces, resembling sea creatures and baby monsters. Budge’s experience as a mother, keeping a watchful eye on her young child, inspired “Eye Spy with My Little Eye.”
The center’s volunteer spirit is expressed by Rhonda Kuhlman’s “Candy Striper,” a large weaving made of colorful recycled T-shirts that suggests a giant version of the potholders you made as a kid — something to protect a helping hand. Rhonda Kuhlman lived by the motto, “Recycle, reuse, redeem, reborn.” She made art out of bottle caps, candy wrappers, tin cans and other castoffs.
Only 42 when she died in September from congestive heart failure, Kuhlman left her body to the University of Texas Health Science Center and requested that her friends donate blood to the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.
Using recycled advertising signs, Gary Sweeney taps into the spirit of community caring with his text piece in the lobby that reads, “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is banded together.” Ricky Armendariz metaphorically refers to healing a broken heart with his lonesome Western landscape at twilight carved and painted on plywood. Etched across the sky are the words: “The road a mi corazon, es under construction.”
James Cobb’s “The Substance of Things Hoped For” is a large, digital print of tangled lines and forms suggesting a chart of jumbled emotions. Estevan Arredondo’s “Indigenous” is a big, joyous splash of water in enamel, resin and powdered pigment on wood panel.
Luis Valderas created a sweeping village scene, “Coatlicue,” a mosaic-like color inlayed wood cut plate mingling earth mother images with abstract patterns. Deborah Keller-Rihn’s hand-painted realistic yet surreal photographic portrait of a multi-armed Indian goddess is titled “Angela the Liberating Tara of Great Peace.”
The new works in the Donor Pavilion have joined the large, existing collection in the main headquarters building, designed by Overland Partners. Many well-known San Antonio artists are featured, including Jesse Amado, Jane Dunnewold, Gini Garcia, Mark Hogensen, Gilberto Tarin, Kathleen Trenchard, Kathy Vargas, Reggie Rowe, F.L. “Doc” Spellmon, Margarita Urquiza and Anita Valencia.
“I felt like a kid in a candy store being a member of the Art Selection Committee,” Simon said. “We have a tremendous community of artists in San Antonio, and the Blood & Tissue Center realizes the importance of art in healing the human spirit.”
More info: The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is located at 6211 I-10 West at First Park Ten Boulevard in San Antonio. The center’s art collection is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays by appointment. For a tour, call 210-731-5555 or 1-800-292-5534.