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Art collective Motherling joins with curator Isabel Servantes for exhibition of women collage artists

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From left: Curator Isabel Servantez collaborated with Motherling’s Sealia Montalvo and Crisa Valadez on the exhibition “Garden of Reflection.” - COURTESY PHOTO / MOTHERLING
  • Courtesy Photo / Motherling
  • From left: Curator Isabel Servantez collaborated with Motherling’s Sealia Montalvo and Crisa Valadez on the exhibition “Garden of Reflection.”
Early last year, young artists of color and longtime besties Sealia Montalvo and Crisa Valadez decided to take their friendship to the next level with a creative partnership.

Aiming to fuse the complementary talents and interests of Montalvo (who’s studying civic engagement and nonprofit management at the University of Texas at San Antonio) and Valadez (who’s studying visual art and new media at Our Lady of the Lake), the International School of the Americas grads set out to highlight up-and-coming artists through the approachable, DIY format of pop-up exhibitions. Although the germinating seed was firmly planted, one key thing was missing: a name.

“It was kind of funny actually, because we’d had our idea for months but we just didn’t have a name,” Valadez recalled.

In search of something slightly obscure, earthy and metaphysical, the San Antonio natives bounced words off one another and eventually settled on a moniker for their nascent endeavor: Motherling.

“We were like, ‘Yeah, that makes sense,’” Montalvo said of the name. “Because we definitely are female-driven; we definitely try to support female-identifying and non-binary individuals within our community to try to be as inclusive as we can.”

That directive became abundantly clear with Motherling’s first pop-up “Loveforms.” Unveiled last February at Brick in the Blue Star Arts Complex, that group show united works by 20 women and female-identifying artists through an open-ended theme: love. Beyond highlighting local creatives, Motherling’s debut showcased Montalvo’s hanging and installation abilities — skills she learned as a teenager attending Blue Star’s MOSAIC Student Artist Program.

“I took that experience through to [other] projects, and it definitely helps with Motherling collective,” said Montalvo, who has since brought Valadez up to speed on the ins and outs of hanging a show.

Last July, Motherling widened its scope by mixing a few male artists into “Text to Frame” — a “visual poetry show” hosted at Rojo Gallery.

Those two shows caught the attention of rising curator Isabel Servantez, who served as Semmes Foundation intern at the McNay Art Museum from 2020 to 2021 and was recently named curator of exhibitions and programs for Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum.

“After their exhibition ‘Text to Frame,’ Sealia and Crisa approached me with the offer to curate an exhibition with them,” Servantez explained. “I was immediately excited about this opportunity. Over the course of several years, I had been keeping track of three collage artists: Zoe Carlson, Nancy Casanova and Anna Foran. Although their practices are seemingly disparate in themes and techniques, I felt drawn to each of their bodies of work, approaching collage from different and unique perspectives and approaches. … I felt strongly that these three artists would fit well together.”

To round out the trio of artists Servantez selected, Montalvo and Valadez chose two San Antonio-based collage artists: Tink Castillo and Anette Cavazos. On view at FL!GHT Gallery through January 28, the resulting collaboration is “Garden of Reflection,” a non-narrative exhibition comprising analog and digital collages exploring “shape, form, material and movement” along with myriad themes in between.

“It has been a pleasure working with Sealia and Crisa,” Servantez added. “They are excited, creative and diligent in giving opportunities to artists and art professionals.”

The Motherling duo also boasts a gift money or training can’t buy: synergy. During one of our visits with them at FL!GHT, we witnessed a moment that was pretty freaking adorable. As they mapped out the placement of artwork on the bare gallery walls, Valadez looked to Montalvo and said, “I feel like I couldn’t do this with any of my other friends.”

“I feel the same,” Montalvo replied.

These visual highlights of the show are five reasons to visit Motherling’s “Garden of Reflection.”

COURTESY PHOTO / ZOE CARLSON
  • Courtesy Photo / Zoe Carlson
Zoe Carlson, Father Sky
Incorporating acrylic paint, magazine clippings and embroidery on muslin, Denver-based “artist, seeker, daughter, sister and nonprofit administrator” Zoe Carlson’s latest body of work is inspired by Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags, Peruvian ofrendas and “indigenous communities doing the real work at the frontlines of environmental justice.”

COURTESY PHOTO / TINK CASTILLO
  • Courtesy Photo / Tink Castillo
Tink Castillo, Blasphemy
Driven by surrealism, San Antonio-based Houston native Tink Castillo experiments with layers and textures in hand-cut collages that encourage viewers to look past the obvious and “focus on the hidden meanings.”

COURTESY PHOTO / NANCY CASANOVA
  • Courtesy Photo / Nancy Casanova
Nancy Casanova, Reflection 2: Flashbulb Memories
San Antonio artist, collector, scavenger and nomad Nancy Casanova examines human behavior and habits in cut-and-paste collages made from “discarded paper ephemera from her travels, books, magazines, old drawings and artworks that have been damaged and abandoned.”

COURTESY PHOTO / ANETTE CAVAZOS
  • Courtesy Photo / Anette Cavazos
Anette Cavazos, Growth
Guided by dreams, memory, ambiguity and composition, San Antonio native Anette Cavazos’ collages combine archival illustrations and clippings from magazines and books she collects from thrift stores.

COURTESY PHOTO / ANNA FORAN
  • Courtesy Photo / Anna Foran
Anna Foran, Untitled (Party)
Toronto-based visual artist and writer Anna Foran layers clippings, paint and pencil on paper to conjure ghosts, gaps and “the fullness of absence.”

For more about Motherling, follow the collective on Instagram @motherling.sa.

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