At Erin Cluley Gallery in the heart of the Manufacturing District, North Texans came out on Tuesday evening to support Beto O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign at an art auction and fundraiser. The gallery buzzed with artists, bidders and campaign supporters waiting to take a photo with O’Rourke.
Around 50 Texas artists donated work that raised over $81,000. About half of the artists were from North Texas.
While Texas politics and art may not be an obvious pairing, artists at the fundraiser said their work is an important means of protest and supporting their communities.
Andrea Tosten, 45, said her art is a way of building up her community by being part of the “visual conversation” and trying to connect with other people.
“There’s a lot of effort to cause divisions in society right now, and so this is a big part of being a part of your community and something that you can do in addition to voting,” she said.
Tosten’s mixed-media piece “Am I Maybe” is a part of her series named after the word “Flibbertigibbet” which Merriam Webster defines as “a silly flighty person.”
She said the idea for her series, and the piece she donated, came during the pandemic and waves of social unrest. At that time, she was exploring “what it means to question if you’re doing enough when the intensity of the human condition revs up like it has been in the past several years.”
Other artists like Armando Sebastian said his work isn’t political, but it’s a form of protest in the way that he embraces and reflects his culture.
“I feel like when you celebrate your culture and who you are, and you don’t forget it, and you embrace all these elements that make your culture so rich, I think that to me is like the best political statement you can make,” he said.
Sebastian donated his painting “Boy Charro No. 2,” which explores among other things the idea of gender identity through his depiction of a Mexican charro or horseman, an iconic masculine figure. By changing the color of the charro’s outfit and sombrero, as well as his comportment, Sebastian said he wanted to play with the idea of a more feminine charro.
Artists of all ages contributed to the event, including 13-year-old June Dufilho, who donated a red-and-white mushroom clay sculpture that gave Studio Ghibli vibes. She said she wanted to help out and hoped her work would help O’Rourke win.
When asked how politics and art relate, she said “expressing how you feel through art is important.”
For bidder Glen Jones, who works as a designer, art and politics go hand-in-hand. He scanned the QR code on the title card of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s Mound #1 The Legend Sweats and Bubbles Part 2 and hastily typed in his bid.
“They’re both at the forefront on the leading edge of doing something different,” he said. “Artists do it and political activists – it’s the same way.”
That’s what he loves about Hancock’s work – it’s provocative, “sometimes there’s bad words, sometimes there’s other suggestive things.”
As the event came to a close, Erin Cluley, who offered up her gallery for the night, said the issues at hand in the gubernatorial race are critically important. And she feels the artists from the auction reflect the moment.
“Artists and the work that they make and their practices are of the time, they’re the storytellers. And so, what a beautiful way to kind of bring it all together.”
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