You Were Beautiful When I lost You

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The reception for You Were Beautiful When I Lost You took place at HCC Northline Gallery on the evening of December 9th 2010.  The participating artists were encouraged to freely experiment within the concepts of loss and love relating to non-human life. These led to an array of diverse approaches that yielded hauntingly beautiful, humorous and at times disturbing works.

One of the the sculptural wonders of the show was Rebecca Novak’s Through Honeyed Lips Came Prophecy. Novak meditated on the life of a bee and our relationship to beekind in a meticulously crafted shrine made of raw beeswax. The piece was dedicated to a bee that flew in Novak’s window and perished.

Through Honeyed Lips Came Prophecy, Raw beeswax and gold leaf, Rebecca Novak

Angel Quesada created a site-specific erasable mural for the glass walls of the gallery entitled Temporary Animals. With this beautifully executed and time consuming work, Quesada raised awareness about the rapidly decreasing population of tigers world wide.

Temporary Animals, Erasable marker on glass, Angel Quesada
 Stephanie Saint Sanchez put a twist on the issue at hand in her humorous and captivating film The Talented Mr.Kitty. “Do we really know what lies in store for us when we open our homes and hopeful hearts to our feline friends? DO WE? Sure they are cute but so was Ted Bundy” says the artist. The Talented Mr. Kitty (Based on a true story) reveals who really runs the house. (Click on one of the images below to watch the trailer).
The Talented Mr.Kitty, Installation detail, Stephanie Saint Sanchez
 In the performance, Blind, Poultry….Production, Ryan Hawk addressed the issue of factory farming in the US by capturing beauty and significance within Ritual Sacrifice.

The video was installed in the darkest corner of the gallery, the Dark Room (the storage room of the gallery modified into an annex room)

Blind, Poultry…Production, Still from the video, Ryan Hawk

Brent Koehn presented a stunning performance entitled Banality. While wearing life vests, Koehn’s performers lined up to crawl on a ladder, make eye contact with the crowd and then leap onto a mattress. They repeated this drearily action for about 10 minutes. It called to mind images of lemmings jumping into the ocean.

 Banality, Brent Koehn

In the performance Love is Forever, Boby Kalloor slept in his own bed with his own stuffed cat during the 2 hour reception. His bedroom environment was installed in the dark room of the gallery. A video camera recorded audience interaction. The piece was dedicated to a lost feline love.

Boby Kalloor, Love is Forever

Nancy Douthey did a socially based piece entitled Lost & Found. Douthey distributed pink colored fliers at the entrance of the gallery that alerted the audience about a pick pocketer on the loose during our reception. Dressed in private investigator attire, Douthey incessantly searched for the criminal. She claimed it was a dark haired man. Some items turned out missing during the event, luckily, there was a Lost & Found department.

Lost & Found, Nancy Douthey

In a similar note, Aisen Caro Chacin’s piece entitled It Was Beautiful But I Lost It consisted of calling the curator one day prior to the event to let him know that her piece was missing, gone, nowhere to be found.  A label was placed on the wall where Chacin’s piece was supposed to be projected? placed? performed?  During the reception, she kept asking the audience if they had seen it.

It Was Beautiful But I Lost It, Non-existing medium, Aisen Caro Chacin

Naz Fall’s installation/experiment entitled Blacksheep confined several goldfish with a larger predator fish (a Jack Dempsey) in a vitrine turned aquarium. The piece intended to confront us with nature’s destructive process by recreating loss, letting the large fish feed on the smaller, but loss came with a bang. Due to a request from the curator to change the murky water before the reception all the gold fish perished. The incident caused mixed reactions among the attendees. After the opening night, HCC requested for the one remaining fish to be removed to avoid its death, but days passed and the artist never found a time to come.  Tina Kotrla, the gallery director came to the rescue and took Blacksheep to Petco to be offered for adoption.  The curator  regrets the accidental outcome of this piece, however, the artist’s initial concept, the process of execution and the complications it produced gave us a glimpse at the way some value animal life, and added a lasting impact to the work.

Blacksheep, designed to combat firesheep, has been injected in the following environment for  consistent monitoring of audience traffic. In a scenario of hijacking, it identifies the presence if a fire sheep, often providing an alert to the end user – Naz Fall

In the video entitled Meet My Pets, Carrie Schneider presented a library of publicly generated videos exemplifying pet and pet owner behavior, highlighting acts of love, loss, obsession and abuse.

Meet my Pets, Carrie Schneider

Emily Sloan created an ice sculpture in homage to Scrappy, a rescue dog whose whereabouts are unknown. The exquisite sculpture, entitled Straffordshire, melted away during the reception.

  Straffordshire, Ice, Emily Sloan

Metal Smith and sculptor James Ciosek took a metaphorical approach to the concept of excessive attachment with a fascinating metal sculpture entitled Tobacco Neuron which featured a tobacco leaf as its main motif. “We are not just pet owners, we are also owned by our pets, in this case a plant” says the artist, who recently quit smoking cold turkey.

Tobacco Neuron, Forged metal and found objects, James Ciosek

Tina Kotrla reflected on the briefness of natural beauty by addressing the process bucks go through as their antlers grow called In Velvet; a velvety surface grows out over the surface out of of necessity and then its naturally lost. “I wanted to give the antlers back their velvet, or what I see as beauty, but by camouflaging them I created artificial beauty,” says the artist. “Sometimes we can almost hide the very thing we are attempting to highlight when we embellish it.”

In Velvet, Antlers, velvet and gold string, Tina Kotrla

Hilary Scullane presented the  installation “Gone,” which consisted of an empty kitten box, a narrative that recounted the loss of a group of kittens, and audio  kitten sounds coming from inside the pedestal.

  Gone, Installation detail, Hilary Scullane.

Alex Tu presented two intriguing sculptures. The Space Between Us consisted of an unbelievably realistic rendition of a cat, resting peacefully on top of a pedestal, encased in a Plexiglas vitrine.

The Space Between Us, Alex Tu

In Untitled, a second cat pokes out of its cage, hidden above one of the gallery walls. It meows once in a blue moon.

Untitled, Alex Tu

Janie Guardiola, a student majoring in Special Effects, experimented with a site-specific sculpture entitled I Think I Can. The depiction of a roadkill racoon over the glass wall facing the cafeteria did not suit well with some students that were trying to enjoy their lunch, a piece of paper was placed on the glass facing the cafeteria to cover one of its gruesome wounds.

I Think I Can, Taxidermy Raccoon, acrylic paint and fake blood, Janie Guardiola

Tina Kotrla and I collaborated in Boogie, an interactive installation that introduced Kotrla’s beloved pit-bull as a pet activist with an extensive agenda. Boogie curated a show within the show entitled “Artists To Watch” for which he invited students to donate their animal themed drawings to raise funds for his favorite no kill shelter. He also collected signatures for Prop. Paw 1, No Chaining Dogs In Houston. So far around 200 signatures have been collected.

Boogie, Installation detail and interaction, Tina Kotrla and Jonatan Lopez

Daniel Adame created a magnificent large scale painting in memory of Simon, one of his greatest loves.

Simon, 11 Years and Counting, Oil on canvas, Daniel Adame

Kimi Hernsberger executed a series of beautiful abstract drawings addressing the exploitation of animals by human kind. Charcoal on paper is Hernsberger’s expertise and for this show she contributed some of her best.


Udder Edema and Bovine Mastisis in a Dairy Cow, Guinea Pig in Peru and Self Portrait, 
Charcoal on paper, Kimi Hernsberger

For Gutting of a Deer, filmmaker  Heath Gresham  experimented with still photography by documenting a family hunting tradition during thanksgiving weekend. He decided to only show us the head and the feet of the victimized deer.

Gutting of a Deer, Heath Gresham

Inspired by the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, Camilo Gonzalez presented a strong and intriguing image entitled El Coronel Aureliano Buendia y sus Pescaditos de Oro.

El Coronel Aureliano Buendia y sus Pescaditos de Oro, Digital collage, Camilo Gonzalez

I presented three small installations.

In Repair/Destroy, viewers were invited to brake or glue back together two ceramic cat figurines.


Repair/Destroy, Ready-mades, hammer and glue

For Preserve, I placed an image that resembled my first lost cat  inside a jar with water and human ashes. To activate the piece the viewer had to shake the pedestal to produce a snow globe effect.

Preserve, Linoleum print by unknown artist, dead leaves, glass jar, human ashes and water.

Requiem II consisted of a series of roadkill themed experimental drawings displayed inside the dark room of the gallery,  illuminated by red and white strobe lights.

Requiem II, Seven drawings illuminated by strobe lights, Jonatan Lopez

Seven trailers were made by  to promote the show on the web and on Facebook prior to the event, these were on view at the entrance of the gallery as an introduction to the exhibit. (You can watch them by clicking on the image below)

The Trailers, Jonatan Lopez

The following video documents the event:


All images in this blog post are courtesy of Rebecca Burwell except for Ryan Hawk’s introductory image (courtesy of the Kellie Prinzel) and Nancy Douthey’s picture with captions (courtesy of the artist).

And YESSSS!!!! I got graded for this show. Thank you

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