In the last post, we introduced a public art commission that we are a part of in San Antonio, Texas. Great Lakes Metal Works co-owner Donna Zarbin-Byrne and artist friend and colleague Diana Rodriguez Gil have been commissioned to create an installation that will serve as a focal point for the new outdoor area in the Gardens of San Juan neighborhood.
A lot has taken place in the past few months, from choosing materials for ground cover, conducting workshops with local residents, to a community town hall gathering to publicly introduce the project, and the fabrication of the gazebo columns and metal nest.
Let’s take a closer look at the Moon Garden component of the project, a contemplative environment that invites its visitors to recall memories of place and origin. The Moon Garden is named for the lunar cycles symbolic of the cyclical patterns of migration throughout history, specifically the migration of native peoples throughout the Americas and Mesoamerica. The crescent and full moon evokes the image of the Lady of San Juan, the namesake of the neighborhood and is depicted in art throughout Mexico. The concern of the project is with cycles of time within the community, beginning with references to Mesoamerican markers located at the Zarzamora Street entrance.
Donna and Diana working on the moon
Indicative of the iconography of Mesoamerica, sculptural forms called stele are being created to mark and welcome the public into the garden space. Stele are free standing stone slabs which historically were erected for funerary or commemorative purposes, used as territorial markers or to commemorate military victories. The stele being created for the Moon Garden feature imbedded iconography, animals, and botanicals, in bronze and ceramic imbedded into concrete forms. They pay homage and are reflective of the style of the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations.
Sketch of Stele by Donna Zarbin-Byrne
Another detail the artists highlight is the natural plant and foliage of the area. Silver falls dichondra and frog fruit with white flowers were chosen for their shape and color correlating to the namesake of the image of the virgin of San Juan, are also plants native to Texas.
Drawing by Landscape Architect Gary Lehman
Around the moon garden will be tiles painted in the talavera style also referencing the Spanish influence of the area. Talavera tiles are a blend of Andalusia Spanish and native Mexican style of craftsmanship.
All of these images serve as a reference to the collective imagery that we recognize as a community in large part with roots to the Americas. Collectively, all of us living in this region can relate to the style and iconography of these images, understanding intuitively the connection to historical landmarks and narrative. The narrative is not created as an instructive timeline, but rather as symbolic forms allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks with their own story and imagination while they experience moving through this sculpture garden. Even before the physical groundbreaking of the garden began, we were able to see it due to the detailed depictions by our wonderful landscape architect, Gary Lehman of G Studio.
From the statue of Lady of San Juan referencing the colonial period after the conquest in Mexico, to the native Texan plants, and the stele-like stones, Donna and Diana have specifically chosen to reflect the history of this neighborhood through iconic imagery and symbols.
SA Live featured us on September 1 in this great video segment.