Dictatorship and Its Effect on Place and People

Elaine Leahy |

(SAN ANTONIO, TX) — September 19, 2017 — Blue Star Contemporary (BSC) presents Origins, Rations, Extractions, featuring artists Paula Luttringer and Gissette Padilla. The exhibition is open from October 5, 2017 through January 7, 2018, and focuses on the impact of political oppression in Argentina and Venezuela.

Paula Luttringer’s photographs in Origins, Rations, Extractions include selections from two bodies of work, Lingnum Mortuum and Entrevero. Lingnum Mortuum looks at a particular landscape affected by government policy. Built in the 1920s, Villa Epecuen, hosted visitors from all over Argentina who came to benefit from the healing properties of Lago Epecuen, one of the saltiest lakes on earth. The infrastructure of the region was neglected during Argentina's military dictatorship of 1976-1986, which resulted in the breaking of a dam that submerged the town in ten meters of water in 1985. Villa Epecuen remained underwater for 20 years until shifting weather patterns resulted in a drought, finally revealing the town.

In 2015 Luttringer began photographing the tree trunks of Villa Epecuen. While working on her project Lignum Mortuum, she made some double exposures. Later she returned to the contact sheet, curious about those tangled images. She saw different worlds superimposed on each other, haunted landscapes of broken trunks and unearthed roots layered texturally on each other as memory is layered which became the basis for her body of work Entrevero. She says, "The trees speak to me of the way people who have suffered trauma stride forward in their lives, embodying movement while some part of them has died."

Luttringer is a survivor of political violence. She was kidnapped and held in a secret detention center in her native country, Argentina, in 1977. She fled immediately after her release and did not return until 1995 when she began using photography to interpret hers and others experiences there.

Luttringer received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2001, and her work is in the permanent collections in the National Museum of Fine Arts (Buenos Aires), the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Portland Art Museum (OR). Luttringer resides in Argentina and France.

Gissette Padilla’s work stands in the intersection of formalist abstraction and social commentary. As an immigrant from Venezuela, the artist's identity falls heavily in the political and personal circumstances her family was under to leave their home and start a new one. With her extended family living in Venezuela, Padilla and her immediate family hear firsthand how loved ones deal with uncertainties born from political policy such as food shortage, crime, and unrest. These events may not be as extreme in the U.S. but are commonplace in many other countries. Venezuela’s heavy political instabilities aren’t new to our histories but are a clear reflection of our complex society.

Using painting, drawing, and various printmaking techniques, Padilla constructs multi-layered images that evoke the experience of a bystander and the protester. The work is an amalgamation of real, distorted, and perceived experience built from fragments of personal photographs, memories, and current found images visually representing both the construction and crumbling of the society. Red hues are used throughout to mark the association with the extreme. The pieces ask how political oppression alters individual and cultural identity.

Padilla received her MFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and her work has been exhibited throughout Texas, New York, Boston, Oklahoma, Montana, and Austria. She has participated in several residencies, including Many Mini Residency at Skydive, Sunblossom Residency, and Sojourn Residency. Padilla resides in Houston.

Exhibition Support

Support for this exhibition generously provided by: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; City of San Antonio, Department of Arts and Culture; the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation; The Lifshutz Family; the National Endowment for the Arts; Texas Commission on the Arts.

About Blue Star Contemporary

Blue Star Contemporary is a non-profit, non-collecting contemporary art organization celebrating more than 30 years in the Southtown neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas, that advances the growth and understanding of contemporary art, artists, and the curatorial process. With a mission to inspire, nurture, and innovate, BSC hosts 20 contemporary exhibitions annually, a year-round after-school art education program for high school youth, the MOSAIC Student Artist Program, and the Berlin Residency Program. In 2017, BSC became the only San Antonio arts organization to be W.A.G.E.-certified, solidifying its commitment to fair compensation of artists and creative professionals. For more information visit

BSC is open to the public, Thursdays & Fridays: 10am-8pm, Saturdays & Sundays: 10am-6pm, and the First Friday of every month: 10am-9pm. Admission is FREE on Thursdays 4-8pm, all day on First Thursdays and First Fridays. General admission is $5. Discounted admission is $3 for seniors, B-Cycle Members, King William Association members. Admission is always free for Blue Star Contemporary Members, active military, veterans, educators, and students with valid ID.