As the yuletide season prepares to rear its head, our holiday wish list includes an abundance of items we hope will inspire us (and others) to unplug our devices, tune out the unending tragedies, go totally analog, learn a little, and welcome whimsy with open arms. Beyond good ol' books (from smart to silly, historical to hilarious), the items below highlight both San Antonio legends (Chuck Ramirez, Mel Casas) and recent additions to our cultural landscape, including shops like Cadeaux and Feliz Modern, and local outfits such as Dawson+Hellman and Boyd's of Texas.
Looking beyond household names like Travis, Houston and Crockett, this 2017 book by veteran journalist Bartee Haile (who’s published upward of 1,700 “This Week in Texas” columns for various newspapers) uncovers the stories of lesser-known but no-less-interesting characters, including a “World War I spy who became a movie star, the first gringo matador, a West Texas tent showman, and the husband-and-wife trick-shot act that amazed audiences for 40 years.” $21.99, the Alamo Gift Shop, 300 Alamo Plaza, (210) 225-1391 x141, arcadiapublishing.com.
Chuck Ramirez: “All This and Heaven Too” Catalog
A wide-ranging celebration of the foreshortened career of late San Antonio artist Chuck Ramirez, the McNay’s Chuck Ramirez career retrospective “All This and Heaven Too” (which includes many of his signature large-scale photographs — of gnarled brooms, overstuffed purses, wilted bouquets, vacant chocolate boxes and busted piñatas — and a recreation of his 1999 Artpace exhibition “Long-Term Survivor”) sadly comes to an end on January 14 … making this thoughtfully designed, info-packed catalog a must-have for the countless friends and fans of “Tía Chuck.” $25, McNay Art Museum, Museum Shop, 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave., (210) 824-5368, mcnayart.org.
Mel Casas: “Iconic Reality” Catalog
Following a similar trajectory as the text-based show “Chuck in Context” (which showcased an entire Chuck Ramirez photographic series untouched by the McNay retrospective “All This and Heaven Too”), Ruiz-Healy Art’s “Iconic Reality” exhibition shifted the focus away from late local painter, educator and activist Mel Casas’ best-known works (namely the large-scale, politically charged paintings from his epic Humanscapes series) to shed light on a poppy body of work that celebrates the vivid beauty of flowers, landscapes and high-heeled shoes. $40, Ruiz-Healy Art, 201-A East Olmos Drive, (210) 804-2219, ruizhealyart.com.
Cruz Ortiz Collectibles
Beyond its smartly curated melange of housewares, cards and giftables, recent Olmos Park arrival Feliz Modern quickly proved its support for San Antonio-based contemporary artists (mixed-media collage artist Kelly O’Connor helped inaugurate the space) via pop-up shows and spill-over products like Cruz Ortiz stickers ($4 each or three for $10), T-shirts ($30), small prints ($10) and sketchbooks ($10). $4-$30, Feliz Modern, 110 W. Olmos Drive, (210) 622-8364, felizmodern.com.
Izola Groom Kit
We’d be happy to unwrap just about anything from welcome downtown addition Cadeaux — which stocks a unique assortment of artsy cards and books as well as jewelry, candles and giftable housewares — including this travel-ready groom kit (stainless steel nail file, clippers, scissors and tweezers in a canvas carrier) from Izola, a company specializing in “goods for the journey.” $35, Cadeaux, 405 N. St. Mary’s St., Suite 100, (210) 451-0746, facebook.com/cadeaux.sa.
“Texas, United States, the World” Artpace T-shirt
Show your support for one of San Antonio’s finest contemporary art destinations by gifting your favorite creative types this supersoft “Texas, United States, the World”
T-shirt referencing Artpace’s signature program, which annually invites three guest curators to each select a trio of artists — one from Texas, one from elsewhere in the U.S. and one from abroad — to live and create art in San Antonio for two months. $20, Artpace, 445 N. Main Ave., (210) 212-4900, artpace.org.
The Texanist: Fine Advice on Living in Texas
The culmination of nearly a decade of humorous advice columns penned for Texas Monthly’s back page by David Courtney, this University of Texas Press book addressing curious conundrums (Is it against the law to pick bluebonnets? Is it real Tex-Mex if it's served with a side of black beans? Is it legal to eat roadkill?) scores extra points with the wonderfully whimsical illustrations created by late artist Jack Unruh. $24.95 at utpress.utexas.edu.
Outside Todo El Día: Nature in English y Español
An artistic and enlightening collaboration between author Madeleine Budnick, Trinity University Press and the San Antonio Museum of Art that benefits the San Antonio Library Foundation, Arte Kids’ new bilingual children’s book Outside Todo el Día employs paintings, lithographs, sculptures, photographs and folk art as colorful backdrops for an outdoorsy adventure in vocabulary in English/Spanish vocabulary. $7.95, San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W. Jones Ave., (210) 978-8100, samuseum.org.
High Desert natural bar soap from Boyd’s of Texas
Although better known for unisex fragrances, Boyd’s of Texas (a San Antonio-based company “born of the heat and pollen and pine trees of the Southern states) also crafts sustainable, organic face and body oils and handmade soaps enhanced with their signature scents like High Desert, with woodsy, winter-appropriate notes of “dry, dusty cedar and smoke.” $14 at boydsoftexas.com.
Dawson+Hellmann “Valley of the Dolls” ScarfLaunched by San Antonio-based Sonya Dawson and LA-based Analise Hellmann, the luxury bedding and loungewear collection Dawson+Hellmann has won over fans near and far with a sly irreverence exemplified by this 100 percent Valley of the Dolls scarf patterned with pot leaves, joints, bongs, matchbooks, Xanax and Vicodin. $120 at dawsonhellmann.com and Aquarius Boutique, 6704 N New Braunfels Ave., (210) 824-9999, facebook.com/aquariusboutiquesanantonio.