San Antonio is widely considered one of the best cities for Chicano and Latino art. Over the last 20 years, areas like the Lone Star Arts District, with affordable studio and gallery space, have helped emerging artists find their place in the national and international art scenes.
Every Second Saturday of the month, the Lone Star District galleries open and people come out to view installations, paintings and performances for free. Renowned local artist Bill FitzGibbons, who owns the building at 107-111 Lone Star, opened the Dock Space gallery last June as a place for innovative art. The Lone Star building is home to established artists like Joe Lopez of Gallista Gallery, and emerging local talents like Daniela Riojas of Studio 111.
“Many of the artists here come from the barrios,” Lopez said. “But these galleries have helped bring our art from the streets into galleries.”
The Freight Gallery and Alex Rubio’s studio are just minutes away from the galleries inside the Lone Star Building, and there are more artists on their way, FitzGibbons said. The Dock Space plays a new, but important role in connecting the public with local artists and developing work.
The gallery’s newest show, simply titled “Works by Lionel and Kathy Sosa,” will be on view by appointment only until March 4. Call 210-723-3048 to make an appointment.
The husband-and-wife team are well known for their respective advertising careers in San Antonio, but the arts have always been an important part of their lives. Lionel came from humble beginnings in Westside San Antonio before founding the most successful Hispanic advertising executive in the country. Kathy previously worked as a copywriter and creative director before she began painting. In the last decade, she has created a number of works for the Southwest School of Art and private collectors.
The couple received formal art training from the late Nelson Shanks, best known for his iconic portraits. Shanks taught the same traditional techniques used by the Old Masters, but he infused his paintings with rich, vibrant colors.
“He taught us to look past the obvious,” Lionel said. “There’s so much more color than you realize.”
At least three days a week, the couple can be found at their home studio in Castroville, painting with those same colors and techniques. The fine arts, as celebrated by museums and institutions, are important to the couple, but they prefer to be part of the local art conversation.
Viewers can see that celebration of local culture in Kathy’s “Tree of Life,” which contrasts humble Mexican textiles with bright, bold colors.
“There’s a ‘Tree of Life’ figure in almost every culture,” she said. “But this series provided me with a platform to express my thoughts and ideas.”
Some of her paintings represent everyday events, while others tackle more complex issues. No subject or moment is too small to be celebrated. Many artists use their work as social commentary to inspire revolutions and emotional reactions, Kathy said.
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“I admire that, but my philosophy is there isn’t enough beauty in the world,” she said. “Whatever artists (choose to) do, we do it with a purpose. I want to be one of the artists to add beauty to the world.”
There’s definite similarities between the two artists’ work. Both artists celebrate women, beauty and Mexican culture. The same bright purples, greens and calming blues that appear in Kathy’s “Tree of Life” series show up in her husband’s paintings as well.
Lionel’s work includes many portraits of Latina women, and features experimental use of color, perception and light techniques.The only constant in his portraits is the attention and focus on the subject’s eyes.
Sosa stopped near his portrait, titled “Yummy,” which depicts a young Latina woman staring back at the viewer as she eats corn on the cob. Unexpected strokes of green and orange show up in her hair, her outfit, her face.
“Why green on her hair? Hell, I don’t know,” he said. For Sosa, painting is a creative process that allows for experimentation and improvisation. If he continues to work, the right color will present itself, the connections will appear.
“I used to see things that I wanted, but couldn’t afford. I had to create things myself,” he said. “Art is just something that makes you feel good about where you are. Art is all about beauty, and this (allows) me to get as close to that beauty as I can.”
The Dock Space is open Monday through Friday by appointment only. Call 210-723-3048 to make an appointment. Click here to follow Lone Star District on Facebook.
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*Top Image: Kathy Sosa speaks with a guest as they look over her artwork. Photo by Scott Ball.