2001 : Michael Mehl – Artist/Curator : Xuai Sk’atzauxt’am – Mission Dream Exhibit : FOTOSEPTIEMBRE USA – City Of San Antonio International Center : San Antonio TX

In early 2001 I was asked by Mexico North Research Network –an initiative of the Smithsonian Institution currently based in Washington DC– to curate and produce a photographic exhibit based on the San Antonio and Goliad Missions.

Having seen countless uninspired documentary images of the Missions and their environment, I wanted the approach to this exhibit to be more interpretive and subjective.

The result, after months of image making and production, was Xuai Sk’atzauxt’am (Mission Dream), an exhibit that I presented at the City of San Antonio International Center in September of 2001, as part of our FOTOSEPTIEMBRE USA SAFOTO Photography Festival.

The featured photographers were Jessica Gonzalez, Robert Maxham, Michael Mehl, Kent Rush, Al Rendon, and Kathy Vargas.

Curatorial Text

Xuai Sk’atzauxt’am (Mission-Dream in Coahuiltecan, an indigenous language of South Texas and Northern Mexico).

What constitutes a traditional sacred site? The many possible answers to this question vary according to social, cultural and economical contexts, which coexist during specific historical periods and within determined geographical locations.

Some historically relevant sacred sites were originally defined by mathematical and astronomical calculations, others were originated by the “apparition” of a divine being or by geomantic divination, and even others were designated to fulfill day-to-day utilitarian purposes, or were merely the result of whimsical royal decrees.

The challenge put to the artists involved in this exhibit, was to create a unique set of icons that would energize and enhance the stature of the Missions, as sites that convey a sense of the diverse spiritual components within our community.

I asked these artists to think of themselves as Myth Makers, Optical Shamans, Spirit Catchers and Temple Elders, whose charge was to formulate a contemporary spiritual iconography, a visual pantheon that would help define the essential spiritual values of the San Antonio and Goliad Missions.

They accomplished this by taking contemporary cultural and spiritual perceptions from their everyday lives, and permeating these into the framework of their personal esthetics. Each artist created two interpretive images of the Missions of their choice, taking bold creative steps in the execution of every piece. They cross-fertilized contexts and concepts, hybridized gravitas with tongue-in-cheek, and ultimately ended up reflecting in their creations, the full spectrum of their personal perceptual histories.

These exceptional visionary artists made of each image, a unique and exciting visual synthesis of the spiritual contexts and iconographies that pervade South Texas.

Michael Mehl
San Antonio, Texas
September, 2001

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2001 Mission Dream Exhibit Promotional Card

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2001 Mission Dream Exhibit Title Board

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2001 Mission Dream Exhibit Acknowledgements

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