Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ruben Salazar - collaboration for Waco art exhibit in February 2008

I've always loved working with other artists in collaboration, especially when the artists involved are working in genres other than the ones I'm usually exploring. Back in January, I got to work with Waco-based visual artist RUBEN SALAZAR, who invited me to send him some of my political poems for possible use in some of his artwork. Ruben and I met via a phone call back in 2005, which kind of spooked me, because he 1) phoned after midnight and 2) he happened to know that I was about to board a train to travel to San Antonio for TeatroFest at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Disconcerting, for reals. I was polite but cautious, as Ruben listed off the names of some of our mutual friends. Turns out, Ruben was just super-friendly and maybe a bit lonely for Chicano/a artist kinship. He knows alot about Chicano/a art and has traveled a bit throughout the southwest to study, work, and network. I ended up on his email mailing list and began to figure--from the content of many of his forwards and messages--that he is an environmental activist and practitioner of what is often termed "advocacy art." He's really good at creating provocative "papel picado" ("cut paper") designs, a couple of which you can see here.

We've shared alot of musings online, and looked forward to the day that we might collaborate on some project together. He is trying to bring some "life" and "culture" to Waco, and I can tell that he often feels like he's waging a one-man campaign to do so.

Anyway, back in December (2007), Ruben announced that he was going to have a show of his work in McLennan Community College's art gallery. He invited me to submit a few pieces of my writing for his consideration, as he hoped to find inspiration for a couple new works from reading these poems. This, in turn, motivated me to pen a new piece, "Steps on the Earth", which Ruben included in a multimedia collage--as shown below--which he created specifically for his exhibit.

I took the train (yay, Amtrak!) on the afternoon of Friday, February 15th, so that I could check out his one-man show and also to perform at the reception. ((A long sidenote now ensues: Ramsey kindly dropped me off at the Amtrak station in time for my scheduled departure, but we didn't have time for him to swing by my bank ATM beforehand. No problem, I thought. I'll buy my ticket and then skip over to the ATM which was surely to be found in the rail station lobby. Problem: I had just received a replacement ATM card from my bank the day before and had neglected to test-drive it. Reason for getting a replacement card, in the first place, was because some bozo had been trying to do a heist using that bank's ATM system, so all customers were required to trash their old cards and pick up a new (safer) one. Okay, so I had just enough cash to purchase my one-way ticket to McGregor. Waco doesn't have a rail stop because the powers-that-were and the powers-that-be continue to resist having Amtrak service their city. Lame. Anyway--once I purchased my ticket, I was left with the equivalent of about $1.25 in coinage. Sad. I had no idea if my ATM card was going to work whatsover, in any machine. I had not the slightest clue if I'd be able to withdraw any money for my weekend journey, which would have me moving on to Austin from Waco--Cesar and Miguel were scheduled to pick me up in Waco, alongside the interstate, at one of the fast-food restaurants across from Baylor U. on Saturday morning. I realized that I had to fall back on my time-tested belief that things would all work out, and that my needs (food, drink, etc.) would be met without the safety net of money. In a pinch, I could also borrow from Cesar.))

Anyway, after my reading at the gallery on Friday night, Ruben passed around a basket for donations, and I was offered the total amount collected--which equaled almost exactly the amount I would have withdrawn from the ATM to cover my anticipated expenses for the weekend. The universe always provides a safety net; we only have to trust in it.

Ruben introducing me at his art show reception--McLennan Community College in Waco.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you will receive this...I'll give it a shot. I was in art school at MCC for a while with Ruben. Do you have his current info? I am trying to get in touch with him to see if he has a current portfolio.
Thank you! Fascinating article here!
Richard Bettinger

Tammy Gomez said...

Richard: Wrote Ruben and he said it would be okay to share his email address: