While driving to her native Piedras Negras in April 2010 to prepare for an upcoming show, the stark contrast between the generally pleasant surroundings of the United States and the bleak Third World atmosphere of Mexico were never more apparent as the artist crossed the bridge into the border town on her multiple, three-hour drives.
On those solo trips, Veliz had time to contemplate about the differences between her hometown and her adopted country. She thought about the economic prosperity of America compared to the poverty of Mexico, as well as the woes of the world and humanity, and the abuse we inflict upon the planet; yet she also acknowledged the beauty and joys in life and all that it has to offer.
“I came up with the idea to purchase a large, raw piece of white silk because of its natural beauty and softness,” she said, “and I associate innocence and something being pure and simple with silk.”
The use of the Roman numeral XXI relates to the 21stcentury in which we live, and in keeping with the theme of the exhibit’s title, Veliz “abused, neglected and destroyed” the silk for 21 consecutive days with each day representing one century, she said. After 21 days, she spent another 21 days attempting to restore the silk to its original beauty. “I tried to reverse the effects of the abuse,” she said, “but I knew it would be impossible.”
To chronicle the process of destroying and then restoring the silk, the artist documented her work by setting up her digital camera on an easel. She pressed “play” whenever she worked on the large piece of fabric in the courtyard of her home, and whenever inspiration struck – usually at odd hours of the night.
Attendees of the exhibit can view Veliz’s video documentary which follows the silk’s journey through 42 days. “XXI” also features 21 8-by-10 and 21 5-by-7 digital prints or “film grabs” from the video, as well as an installation and assemblages seen in the video, including antler’s horns, boots and wire, among other objects.
Almeida, who also is the curator for the UTSA Art Collection, said Veliz is a multi-talented artist whose body of work includes painting, sculpture, performance and photography.
“XXI is a profound odyssey that delves into the dark recesses and boundless potential of the human spirit,” he said. “An inspired contemplation of the human condition in the 21
stcentury, XXI is ultimately a poetic homage to infinite possibilities and the tenacity of hope.”
Veliz recalls that after the initial 21 days of working with the silk and viewing the torn and ruined fabric, a dark cloud settled over her. “I became depressed and gained weight because the silk had become such a part of me,” she said, adding that the silk even traveled with her to a Galveston beach where she laid it out on the sand, where it was dragged and stomped upon.
While reflecting upon the process that “XXI” underwent last year, she was inspired to write a number of poems in English and Spanish. They are the subject of her picture book that will also be available for viewing at the exhibit.
“It’s a complete show,” Veliz says. “A few people who have seen the video have had interesting reactions. A psychologist in Mexico, who saw it, said she wants to use it as therapy for some of her patients.”
Viewing hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by appointment by calling (210) 348-0088.