A hard seltzer in my hand, harpist’s notes dancing in the air, and a literal world of art to explore – life was good on Labor Day at the Austin International Art Fair.
Abundant with a plethora of diverse pieces from thirty-two artists representing fifteen different countries, I was fortunate to behold the universality of our world’s need for artistic expression. At times I was almost brought to tears, and I surely doubt it was because of the seltzer. The collection featured a wide assortment of equally awe-inspiring styles, from the surreal workings of Salvador Dali’s Argillet Collection, the vibrant repetitive minimalism of Hunt Slonem, to the exuberant and child-like workings of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. While I could write paragraph after paragraph of every painting that inspired me to genuinely enter a contemplative state, cross my arms, look deeply into the finer textures of a piece, and self-exclaim a soft whispering, “wow” out of sheer amazement and reverence, I would rather focus on and praise the work of local Austin artists: Matthew Trujillo and Mila Sketch.
Matthew Trujillo, originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, now lives in Austin, TX, and continues to bless the city with his pop modern street-style portraits. My favorite piece of his that was on display, (pictured below) is titled Perseverance. I spent several seltzer-inspired minutes staring into the seemingly blood-stained eyes of the feminine demon icon. Why an association between demon and the word “perseverance’’? The more I wondered this, the more I was convinced that Trujillo used these heartful and heat-emitting colors of red, yellow, and orange to convey that, in order to truly persevere, one must be willing to endure sacrifices and forage ahead despite the risk of pain. Even the thought of horns growing out of one’s head reminds me of the need for patience when it comes to developing a skill or the quest for a new life. Like the horns, they will eventually break from underneath the skin, no doubt causing some discomfort, yet, once they are fully developed, the only work to be done is to revere their dangerous cosmetic allure. When I look into the eyes of Perseverance, I feel I am being asked to accept the inevitable need to draw blood, either from myself or from those (either person, institution, demon, etc.) who stand in my way, in order to attain the fulfillment of my passionate aspiration. In the case of Lucifer, the ultimate rebel, he must have had some conviction to dissent from the creator of the universe. I guess the message is to be more like Satan. Contrarily, perhaps the true test of perseverance is resisting the enticement of this sexual succubus’s beckoning gaze. It is our duty to face our own internal demons, reconcile with these failings, and carry on towards the light of perseverance. Every time the devil obscures our path towards progress, we exclaim, “Get behind me Satan!” and keep moving forward; however, if the devil is the seltzer, I think I’m failing. Sippy, sippy.
The second local talent whose work I found enlivening is Russian-born, award-winning artist Mila Sketch. I wonder if she changed her name because she’s an artist. Despite my suspicion, her work portrays more discipline than any simple sketch. My favorite work of hers (pictured below) is titled Flourishing. It depicts a vast array of patterns, symbols, colors, and dimensions emanating from the flames of a life-giving fire. The moon, the nurturer of the creative impulse, is also present looming over the explosive iridescence. This piece, in many ways, is an all-encompassing representation of the entire gallery event. If the fire is the universal creative instinct, whose flames contain even more patterns and mosaics, the flourishing comes from using this light to illuminate the unsuspecting, omnipresent beauty present all over the globe. The presence of the moon would suggest that it is nighttime, and within this darkness (either external or internal) there is the exploration of one’s consciousness, ripe with glitching patterns, sprouting lines, and rolling geometric hills of vibrant potentiality. It is the artist’s duty to harness that flame so they can flourish and work to transfigure their raw stimuli into an admirable form, thus giving light to darkness. Ironically, Sketch’s painting seems to both deny form, as it represents the artist’s underlying inspirations, while also demonstrating meticulous attention to detail in its many revelations. As I am sure one could imagine, this piece and my seltzer complimented each other nicely. Sip, sip.
Sipping aside, I soberly encourage every collector, enthusiast, critic, and dilettante to visit the Austin International Art Fair at the West Chelsea Contemporary Museum. It is our duty as a community, if we wish our vibrant art scene to continue to flourish, to support the artists who work so diligently to inspirit our everyday lives. The exhibit will be running until October 24th, and you can get more details from their website https://wcc.art/the-austin-international-art-fair/.
Do not forget to follow local artists Matthew Trujillo (@mattru22) and Mila Sketch (@mila_sketch) on Instagram.
By Bryce Robinson