|Pete Villasenor at his May 7 show opening at Magnet, with one of his etchings. His work is full of memories, good and bad aspects of life, and charged with striking colors and surfaces. Photo by Rink.
During the month of May, Magnet (the Castro center for health and social well-being) is currently showcasing the etchings of printmaker Pete Villase√Īor, born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and living in San Francisco for the past twelve years. ‚ÄúMoving to San Francisco twelve years ago has further enriched the artwork I have created,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúThe stability of a loving relationship with my partner of thirteen years has also been a major factor.‚ÄĚ His technique is intaglio, the same as printmakers used back in the 18th century: working with zinc metal plates, pouring wax on top, scraping away the wax with an etching needle, and submerging it in acid and water; when the acid starts biting into the exposed parts of the plate, if he is happy with the etching, he removes it from the acid and water, cleans it up, removes the wax, and places ink over the metal plate, which goes into the eaten parts, sinking into the lines; then he wets printmaking paper and runs it through a press. Needless to say, it is a very intricate, painstaking process.¬†¬†
His work reflects memories of growing up in San Antonio with a Mexican American background, and reflects the joy, goodness, and hope he has experienced in life, as well as the ‚Äúfear and uneasiness that also creeps in.‚ÄĚ Drawing on his love for colors and the utilization of different wiping techniques, the works represent a visionary fusion of Mexican, Tejano, Asian, and modern day Bay Area motifs possessing their own uniqueness. His art is inspired by Mexican folklore, and Aztec, Mayan, and Asian imagery. There is also a contemporary aspect, which one would find in the form of a peace sign or the Oakland Raiders logo, for example. He says as he works his craft on the metal plates, he tries not to think too much but rather to just surrender to the moment and the feeling. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs almost like I‚Äôve known this stuff for a long, long time, and it feels really familiar to me,‚ÄĚ he tells Bay Times, ‚Äúand I channel, who knows, maybe my grandparents or great grandparents.‚ÄĚ He adds, ‚ÄúI fall in love with these images, and they kind of evolve.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúMemo‚Äôs Lion‚ÄĚ is inspired by his grandmother, who raised him, who he used to call ‚ÄúMemo.‚ÄĚ She was a Leo in astrology, thus the lion appears. There are two plates: one is the rich bluish color of the lion and the second plate is reddish in color.
He says he sees a lot of beauty in the world, and has a special feeling about animals, birds, and fish, which often appear in his work. ‚ÄúLately I‚Äôve been thinking about global warming and how we can protect the earth,‚ÄĚ he says, pointing to his etching entitled ‚ÄúMountain of Hope.‚ÄĚ He is most fond of ‚ÄúThe Annunciator,‚ÄĚ depicting a Mayan-inspired jaguar giving a message to the people of the world to take better care of the planet. To the Aztecs and Mayans, the jaguar was revered as a god.¬†
Villase√Īor is a member of the Graphic Arts Workshop in San Francisco, which provides around the clock access to printmaking facilities as well as exhibition space. He has exhibited his works throughout the Bay Area and in San Antonio. He never prints any more than 25 of each edition, which makes it more unique to purchasers. He starts out with five to seven pieces, and after they sell, he prints a few more, until he reaches the 25th and stops printing with that particular plate.¬†
‚ÄúCalendario‚ÄĚ is inspired by and based on the ancient Aztec calendar, with some of the artist‚Äôs additions inserted. You will note, for instance, the Oakland Raiders guy hidden at the top. Also, in the ‚ÄúFlight Over Chichen Itza‚ÄĚ piece, on top of the pyramid you will find the Burning Man depicted. The artist is what we call a ‚Äúburner,‚ÄĚ since he has been to the event in the Nevada desert three times now. ‚ÄúImperial Bird‚ÄĚ reflects his love of birds. Sometimes he will do a couple of proofs, laying them on top of each other to get the most color and variation possible, as seen in this piece.
On showing his work at Magnet, Villase√Īor explains it as, ‚Äúa way I can ‚Äėgive back‚Äô and show my gratitude to the GLBT community that will always reside joyfully in my soul.‚ÄĚ He adds, ‚ÄúIt is a small way to contribute to the health and well-being of the GLBT community.‚ÄĚ