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O’Kane Gallery Hosts Nationally Known Artist Kathy Vargas Sept. 8 – Oct. 13


By Sheryl E. Taylor

In conjunction with FotoFest Biennial 2022: Participating Spaces, UHD’s O’Kane Gallery is featuring artist Kathy Vargas’ “Este Recuerdo/About Memory” Sept. 8 – Oct. 13. The event will include an Opening Reception 5 – 7 p.m. and an Artist’s Talk 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The exhibition is a survey of photography from the 1970s to present. Vargas, a native and resident of San Antonio, creates multiple-exposure prints that are ethereal and intimate, often incorporating social observations or cues from history, including ancestral ties to Mexico and recognition of pre-Columbian cultures. Using film and a darkroom, the artist’s multi-layered photographs express the idea of simultaneous time, suggesting the fluidity of memory, which has often been described as magic realism.

“Most photographers spend their time looking for ‘good light.’ Some travel thousands of miles to find it. Do any of us think about ‘good darkness?’ said Vargas. “It’s the contrast of shadow that creates ‘good light,’ whether that contrast is physical, spiritual, intellectual, metaphorical, psychological, external, internal, and all the rest. We try to balance our lights and darks, but any balance is fleeting. Then the light changes. Pictures are the record of the light (and darkness) we’ve seen. This is my diary."

The Professor of Art at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Vargas’ influences include Mel Casa and the Con Safo Group, which opened her eyes to Latinx art. Her career includes an international exhibition record and acquisitions of her art into numerous private and public collections, including the Smithsonian American Museum of Art. Vargas’ touring group exhibitions include “Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation” organized by UCLA’s Wright Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery’s Hospice: “A Photographic Inquiry.”

“Kathy Vargas is a prominent internationally exhibited photographer,” said Mark Cervenka, Professor of Art and Director of the O'Kane Gallery. “Bringing a survey encompassing  50 years of photography to Houston provides an opportunity for our students and the entire Houston community to see the evolution of her photography. Evocative and ethereal, layered with double exposures and hand colored, often abstract, her work retains the intimacy of family portraits and a respectful acknowledgment of lives past. Additionally, her work depicting individuals and the small mementos that mark their lives suggest unique elements of cultural backgrounds and, like UHD, recognizes the value of cultural diversity and a celebrated and equal  presence and voice for all persons.”

The O'Kane Gallery (located in the UHD Welcome Center) is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday; Noon – 5 p.m. on Saturday and closed University holidays.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.