Victoria native featured in Nave Museum's newest exhibit
Dec. 19, 2013 at 6:19 a.m.
For the first time in two decades, Patrick Medrano, a Victoria native, is bringing his art back to his hometown.
The 40-year-old Houston-based sculptor and painter has exhibited in Europe and South America, but his hometown show is proving to be a special one.
As a successful artist who's made it on your own without formal training, where do you think you'd be if you went to art school?
The funny thing is, I had won different awards and some scholarship money to go to college. I had some funding to go to college, I was told by my high school and middle school teachers to not go to school. They weren't nurtured in the way they should have been nurtured and they became art teachers.
They said to give the money to someone else who could use it. I gave the scholarship to my cousin, and I went to California, and I just kept doing what it was I'm doing.
I came back to Houston with my tail between my legs. I've been studying constant art making.
People are impressed because I hadn't been to formal school, but I learned everything I needed to know from my teachers, Ms. Sanchez and Ms. Finn and Ms. Burleson. That was all I needed to know
Sounds almost like they protected you from it.
By the time I graduated I knew what I needed and where I wanted to go.
Now I say I'd love to go to college to make film or anything that I don't do every day. I'm not against it, it's just what was instilled in me.
They didn't want college to destroy it. They protected me from even thinking about it.
I had the money to go.
What was growing up in Victoria like for you?
My problem with it here was why there were so many places to play golf, but none to be young and express yourself.
I felt like this town had a ceiling, and I had to get out of here.
My art teachers expressed a lot of faith in me. Because of those few people, I felt good about where I was going.
When you're surrounded by people like that, it felt like the whole world was on my side. Even when I stepped out of that comfort zone and got out into the public, it felt weird. It wasn't easy, but I had a lot of older people that were saying, 'Whatever your problems are, just focus on the good things,' which was art.
Art saved my life.
I was another kid who could have ended up doing nothing, which is an outrage. Or even worse, I could have ended up one of those kids who moved away and wasted my life, simply because there was no outlet.
I've heard that you vowed to never return. Is that true?
That's not true. I went to Houston and I ended up meeting some dealers and collectors and met Mr. and Mrs. Harithas, who owned the art car museum and the Nave museum. I was overwhelmed. It was meant to be.
Their reaction was to forget about my hometown. To go forward until I couldn't go forward any more.
I wanted to bring what I did home. I always had this feeling that I wanted to bring it back.
I might have said, 'I've got to get the hell out of here,' but not that I would never come back.
Your work has been exhibited from Paris to Peru. How does it feel to have a show in your hometown?
I feel honored. It's turned into so much more than an exhibit - my whole family will be there, and hopefully some of my former teachers.
This is my first exhibit here in about 25 years. I'm happy that it's on the wall.
This is the last show of the year, and it's in my hometown. All of these other places I show, it's all the same. To go from that to this is really humbling. I think I owe Kim (Pickens, the organizer) a drink.
It's great, I don't know how to express the feeling.
I'm very nostalgic. It's cool.
You go to Paris and it's awesome, but there's no familiarity, no personal story.
When you come home, you get to go backward a little bit and reflect on stuff you've forgotten.
Let's talk about your art. It seems like much of your sculpture features masks. What do these represent to you?
There's a lot of reasons. It started from when I was younger, back in school, I would paint everything and usually they wouldn't have a mouth. These things just naturally happen.
The idea was that this person could only speak with their eyes, their body. They had no vocal language. If you pay attention to the body language in my sculpture, it's overexaggerated. They're telling a story, but it's not a vocal story.
It carried on, and I kept gaining things and losing things. Through evolution, it happened that I started doing things without eyes. I had to find a way to make it less creepy, so I started putting masks on the sculptures. It aesthetically looked great, and it told a story.
They were given expressions with their mouths instead of their eyes.
I'm a visual artist, I make things for people to look at and experience for themselves. I'm not a political artist, but I do have my beliefs and things I put into the paintings and sculptures.
People will see it, if you know you'll know if you dont' you'll find out. The eyes were a good way to do that. Now they're looking at their body - esthetically it looks great- but it's all abou tthe body.
The mask is saying I'm not really here to look at, I'm here for you to experience as a whole. Eyes draw that away because they draw you in.
Before there was a phase where nothing had hair. The reason was the same. I don't want you to depict this as a time period. I was trying to tell the story with the character and body, not what they were wearing or with their hairstyles.
Will you create any paintings or sculptures while you're in town?
I'm going to do some etching and do the work on top of the etching. I etch historic markers in whatever town I'm at. That's where the piece is born, where it comes from.
If it goes to Peru or Paris, someone will read the words and realize it came from Victoria, Texas.
I have great ties to just history in general. I want to give birth to something and know where it came from. You'll see that in a lot of my work.
There seems to be an old-world aesthetic to your work. What do you find more inspiring: the past, present or future?
I think those things are all important. You carry around the future, present and past with you all the time.
You're a part of all of those things at once.
I'd say I'm inspired by all three. You have to be awake and alert and willing to accept what it's trying to tell you. I'm very inspired by the past because that's where we're from.
I'm very inspired by the future because I don't know what it's going to be, and I'm eager and nervous about it. I don't know how to treat the present. I want to give it attention, but the next thing is always coming so fast.
I'm inspired by two of those three things. The present confuses me.
How do you and your wife - who is also a part of this exhibit - collaborate on projects?
It's not easy. We met in Houston 11 years ago. She's a photographer and I'm a painter, sculptor, whatever I can get my hands on. I've never worked with anybody, I've never wanted to work with anybody. I just want to do what I want to do. Then I met this woman and she had some photographs, they were good. I liked them, they were black and white. She started shooting things with me and I started seeing her process.
I had a show I was working on, the for rest of the week it was a collaborative show. I started taking her photographs and putting them into the pieces.
The first we ever did was a bust of her and I encased. Through our torsos was a film going through it, but the film was photographs of all the pictures we had taken during that two weeks of knowing each other.
Like evolution, it just kept going.
There's me, Patrick, Katy, then Katy-Patrick, we have our foundation and a kid. There's all these things that could separate anyone else, but somehow it makes it better. We have a common goal that we have to make all this happen and we have less than 100 years to do it.
Your art goes deeper than sculpture and painting. You and Katy have formed a nonprofit organization - the Fodice Foundation - to save a historic school. What's your goal with that?
The school is just one of those things - these things just happen to me. I don't know how they happen. Katy grew up around the area where this school was. It's a beautiful place, and it was a beautiful place back when she first took me. It still had all the desks and windows, we shot a lot of art there.
We spent some time in Marfa ... when we came home, our ceiling had been raised again. We went out to the school, someone had taken all the desks, someone had destroyed the piano.
This is real history and someone just trashed the place. We teared up a little bit.
Once we saw it in that condition, the question was how could we save the building we art? That's all we had. We don't have any money, we have resources and art.
It was a segregated, all black, W.P.A. school. Fodice was in Freedman's Town. They built this 17,450 sq. foot, 10 classroom, 10 chimney stack, auditorium, all limestone new building. Once de-segregation happened, the town got left behind...
When we came in, we were the wrong color. There was already a community that knew about it that had plans to turn it into retirement homes for African Americans....
It went up for auction, we made our bid and we won.
It's going to be an artist residency. Artists will receive a stipend and a two month stay in a historic studio.
We'll be able to have up to 24 artists at a time. Our intent is to grow and have speciality cabins for woodworkers and metal workers, and a recording studio.
What would you tell people growing up in Victoria who dream of making art?
I hope everyone has at least one person telling them what they're doing is a good thing. If they don't, I would always tell them the same thing. Art is important, but it's not as important as being creative.
You can be creative and live creatively without ever touching clay or a brush. If you don't think creatively, then you're destined to be buried, not under the ground, but in other people's ideas.
It's not for everybody, but it's for everybody to think creatively and always ask questions and look beyond what people are telling you. Be aware and alert and look for that inspiration that's looking for you.