This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 1, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
A beloved religious figure is the focus of the latest art exhibit at South Texas College.
Last month, STC’s Library Art Gallery unveiled their latest exhibit, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Community Exhibit, which is composed of 55 pieces of art by 50 different artists depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“This is the first time we’ve done an exhibit on a religious figure and we wanted a community exhibit centered on someone we all know and she’s so specific here.” STC Library Art Gallery Coordinator Gina Renee Otvos said. “So many people hold her dear to their hearts, she touches people of all fates. She’s a very specific icon to this region where everyone knows who she is.”
The exhibit, currently on display at the second floor of the STC Pecan Campus Library, is on display through Thursday, Dec. 12. That day marks the last day of the fall semester and the 488th anniversary of the Virgin’s fourth and final apparition to a native Mexican peasant named Juan Diego. Diego is said to have experienced visions of a young woman who identified herself as Virgin Mary at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac, which would become part of Villa de Guadalupe, in a suburb of Mexico City.
She asked Diego to insist to the local archbishop for a church to be built at that site in her honor. The church-the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe-is still standing centuries later.
“She’s always seen as the caretaker of her people,” Otvos said. “The story where she appears to and speaks to an indigenous person in the 1500s-a group who were seen as less than-is so important because all of a sudden, they had someone to take care of them and connect them to God.”
To commemorate the Lady of Guadalupe-also known as the Virgen de Guadalupe-STC is presenting the art exhibit in her honor.
“The idea came from a similar exhibit at the Houston art museum to cover the walls with something culturally relevant in the area – The Virgin who appeared in Mexico,” Otvos said. “It’s more than a religious figure, she’s a cultural icon.”
“Every time I go into a house, she is there in some form either by the door, in an altar in the living room, even in a keychain,” Otvos said. “Everyone keeps her near their hearts. She represents a human aspect in religion because she is a mother figure who happened to carry a divine being yet comes from a humble background everyone relates to.”
This exhibit, Otvos explained, is different from previous exhibits because STC invited the public to participate.
“All our previous art exhibits focus on one artist and their works,” Otvos explained. “We decided to invite the public to do depictions inspired by La Virgen de Guadalupe. The purpose of this exhibition is to allow the community to share their artistic vision of La Virgen de Guadalupe, we accepted everything we received to make it as open as possible for the community.”
The open call to artists resulted in a range of artwork from STC students and employees, local artists and people who said they’ve never done art before, Otvos said. The artworks on display was composed of a variety of materials such as quilts, acrylic on canvas, portraits and even one made with InDesign.
“The range of the art on display is so vast. It’s a celebration of a community and the power and beauty that comes from nontraditional artists and people who live and work here,” Otvos said. “These are people who all wanted to participate and to see them all come together in a beautiful exhibit is wonderful. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and praise the exhibit’s beauty and congratulate me, but this isn’t my success. It’s the success of the community coming together. It feels so personal because of all the public involvement”
The exhibit has the same hours as the STC Pecan Campus Library, Monday-Thursday from 7 a.m. through 10 p.m. and Friday 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m.