Currently on view in Blue Star Contemporary Art Center’s Gallery 4 is Ed Saavedra’s installation, Requiem for an English Major, an elucidation of an historical event in Bexar County. On March 31, 2009, 31-year-old Harlan McVea (author of Memoir of a Modern Opium Eater and a past contributor to the Current) committed suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet, leaving behind a suicide note (“I’m so sorry mom. I love you.”) scrawled in mustard (see “Hang time,” January 20, 2010). There was talk of misconduct by the prison guards, as well as a general lack of concern for the welfare of at-risk inmates (McVea was going through methadone withdrawal), which Saavedra seeks to bring to light.
By re-imagining 18th-century British artist Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic painting, “The Blue Boy,” Saavedra creates a stand-in for McVea. The figure similar to that in Gainsborough’s painting is cut from its large canvas and hung from the pipe in the corner of the room, a strip of blue obscuring his eyes. The remainder of the canvas creates an opening through which the figure can be seen hanging in a void created by a temporary wall that cuts the small room diagonally in half. A newspaper article detailing the death of the inmate has been reproduced on the floor in mustard overlaid with blue paint.
Requiem for an English Major is on view through January 29 in Blue Star Contemporary Art Center’s Gallery 4, 116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960.