The performance artist at SAMA uses sexual flair to remind everyone of the artistic potential of parts usually covered

This past Saturday, I ended up in front of an old-house-turned-gallery watching a woman painted completely red sing, get naked, and then make paintings with her butt.  Kembra Pfahler, a notorious New York City performance artist, made a short notice appearance at the Sala Diez Gallery in Southtown.

San Antonio’s art scene has started off the year hot with several gallery openings, from a strong First Friday to an outstanding show of art and attendance during Second Saturday.  This weekend’s two main events were on polar opposites of the spectrum.  Friday, fellow journalist Jeff Sullivan and I did press coverage of a talk given by the SAMA’s new contemporary arts curator Suzanne Weaver.  Earlier that evening, was the opening of a retrospective of San Antonio native Julian Onderdonk’s works, known for his vividly striking late American Impressionist paintings of the Texan landscape.  The crowd was older, most of them members and donors. There was an open bar with wine, cheese and sliced meats.

In contrast, the accommodations were incredibly informal at Sala Diaz compared to the starchy scene the night before.  I was tipped off by my professor, Randy Wallace, in an email he forwarded me from the gallery.  The building itself could easily be overlooked as another house in the neighborhood if it weren’t for the large crowd out front. There were people of all sorts — a woman with blue hair and beret, another with a feathered hat and teal suit, a man in khaki pants with a plain white, two large poodles, everything from casual to extra.  The yard was dimly lit with strung up lights, and filled with a couple makeshift benches and tables.  There was an open bar (this time literally — an Igloo cooler propped up on cinder blocks with Lone Star and supplies for mixing your drink).

Having arrived half an hour early, I was able to see the ongoing installation Jive Town by Agosto Cuellar, that’s taken over the gallery space.  It had the feel of a mix between a garage sale and a thrift shop.  People inside were trying on clothing and jewelry, and thumbing through the curiosities.

Back outside, the performance started promptly at 9:00 p.m. when Mrs. Pfahler made her way down the front steps of the gallery before lighting a cigarette and asking, “Where are my smokers at?”  She wore an enormous frazzled black wig, shades, a white-striped one piece, thigh-high black leather boots and was painted entirely red.  Known for her shocking nude and sexual performance art pieces done in the ‘80’s punk art scene, I was feeling apprehensive and out of place.  She started things off by performing several songs, which some of the older members of the crowd sang along to while others just bumped and bobbed.

Afterword, she asked the DJ to, “Just play any music whatsoever to make people happy,” as she clumsily slipped out of her one-piece and asked the audience to assist her in setting up for the butt prints.

Having suspected the show to be pretentious, it was relieving when it proved to be unprepared and haphazard.  There were uncomfortable periods of silence between songs, occasional stumbling and slurring and many careless confessions.  However, the crowd gave her unwavering support.

After half an hour of making prints, she nonchalantly announced that she’d been hit by a car earlier that week and was feeling too dizzy to continue, but that anyone who still wanted a print could use the supplies themselves.  And with that, the performance was over.  People stuck around to to continue the festivities and enjoy the free booze.  Watching the crowd, I came to understand the existing camaraderie between everyone.  Groups morphed into one another.

Those who got them shared their butt prints with others to appreciate.  I don’t know if I belonged, but no one seemed to be questioning it as much as me.

They were carefree, having a good time, happy to be out.  It was an offbeat bunch at Sala Diaz, but everybody seemed to have their place in it.  If any of this sounds good to you, I was informed that this is a common weekend crowd at the Sala Diaz gallery.

You can almost always find something interesting going on there.  All you’ve got to do is give them a call and ask for the scoop, they’ll be more than happy to have you over.