“Does New Social Art Need Political Theory?” @ Rudyards, Tues, Sept. 24, 7-8pm


Dear Friends,

You are invited to the first public presentation of a philosophical proposition I’ve been professing for some time. This coming Tuesday night at Rudyard’s, I ask the question: Can new political legal theories that propose an expansion of human rights which recognize the “internal rights” of all humans, point a way towards understanding and developing social practice art or socially engaged art projects? Please join me at Rudyard’s September 24th at 7pm. Plenty of conversations and spirits to share!

Philosophically Drinking

Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 7 PM – 8 PM

@ Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Dr, Houston, Texas 77006

"A Vision for a New Houston Museum", published in Glasstire, June 3, 2019

My fellow Houston artists: Allow me to offer a proposal for creating a new museum for Hispanic, Latino/a/x, Mexican-American art (for the sake of this short essay, I will alternate between various self identifying terms). This new museum would be where I live now, in Houston. Why Houston? Unlike other major cities in Texas and around the country, Houston does not have an art museum or institution dedicated to our culture, despite the fact that our peoples make up 45% of Houston/Harris County region’s population.

(L) Sarah Sudhoff,  Murder, Male , 40 years old (I), 2010. Archival Pigment Print, 40 x 30 inches. (R) Debra Barrera,  Quintanilla, Rosa , 2018. Archival pigment print.

(L) Sarah Sudhoff, Murder, Male, 40 years old (I), 2010. Archival Pigment Print, 40 x 30 inches. (R) Debra Barrera, Quintanilla, Rosa, 2018. Archival pigment print.

La Primavera (Springtime) has seen a new awakening of Latino/a/x art exhibitions, projects and displays like never before. Much of this coincided with the Latino Art Now! 2019 conference at the University of Houston held this past spring. Artists, art spaces, theaters, non-profits, museums and galleries made a concerted effort to showcase this culture and talent throughout April and May. As encouraging and affirming as this is, I can’t help but sense that the satisfaction is fleeting. By summertime, we’re back to a reality where studies show how Latino/a/x artists and art organizations historically receive less than 1 percent of total arts funding from the city, state and federal levels combined. What do we do about maintaining our imprint on Houston’s arts and culture scene beyond La Primavera de 2019?

I will not belabor the various reasons why a Latino/Hispanic art museum in Houston does not exist. Instead I propose what a new institution can represent, and paint for you a vision for it.

The vision is an inclusive one, involving all Spanish-speaking nationalities (Mexican-Americans make up 75% of the Hispanic population of Harris County) with their arts and culture from multiple disciplines, representing all genders and ages. It will include historic artifacts, with past and contemporary art. Most importantly, it would be a collecting institution that will purchase, commission, contextualize, exhibit, store, record, promote, preserve and conserve all that encompasses and comprises our arts and culture.

(L) Leo Tanguma,  Rebirth of Our Nationality , 1973 and 2018. 240ft, 5900 Canal street, (with Gonzo247). (R) Angel Quesada,  El indio de la guardia , 2016. Corner of Leland and St. Emmanuel, 30’ x 30’.

(L) Leo Tanguma, Rebirth of Our Nationality, 1973 and 2018. 240ft, 5900 Canal street, (with Gonzo247). (R) Angel Quesada, El indio de la guardia, 2016. Corner of Leland and St. Emmanuel, 30’ x 30’.

It will focus primarily on the work made here in this region from its past and current populations. The MFAH has done an admirable job of interspersing a few works by national Chicano artists within their Latin American exhibitions. But we need a museum that will concentrate and have the responsibility over a collection of art produced primarily in Harris County and the surrounding regions. We have great resources, cultures, culture-makers from this region who deserve the same attention and scholarship as other global cultures enjoy.

Where in Houston should this organization be based? Our historic Mexican-American neighborhoods on the East Side and North Side can make serious claims for hosting it. But our Houston origins are complex. Our families have moved to, settled and resettled in different neighborhoods over time. Spring Branch or Southwest Houston, with their proliferating Latino communities, are potential bases for the museum. There’s no need to be overly territorial about where the place is built. The greater challenge is the community coming together on its establishment. If it were up to me, I would build it along Buffalo Bayou, platformed on stilts, with clear views of the city skyline. Its presence there could cultivate a brand-new arts district outside of the current, well-funded Museum District.

(L) Julia Barbosa Landois,  Star-Crossed II , 2013. Video still, 6:30 minutes. (R) Francis Almendarez,  Nuestro Hogar  (installation view), 2019. Multimedia with produce plants, dimensions variable.

(L) Julia Barbosa Landois, Star-Crossed II, 2013. Video still, 6:30 minutes. (R) Francis Almendarez, Nuestro Hogar (installation view), 2019. Multimedia with produce plants, dimensions variable.

Inclusiveness is the key. Historic civil rights groups (for example the N.A.A.C.P. and the American G.I. Forum) established a general principle about their memberships: the ethic is you don’t have to look or be exactly like us to be part of the organization. If you believe in the mission, you can become a member. This same ethic should carry over to whom and what art this museum shows. We have a diverse and growing population from the various Spanish-speaking countries. Works by any of them could be included. This new institution must include art from people of different sexual orientations and non-binary identifications. Essentially, the new museum should not be another space for only straight men’s art. A new museum will recognize and celebrate people of all genders and identities within our communities. Their omission would turn into a farce, and create the same historic mistakes other museums have made and continue to make. This new museum should be an example of inclusivity and equality that all other national institutions can takes notes from. 

We must ensure that the Houston cultural centers of Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) and Talento Bilingüe de Houston (TBH) are secure, financially stable and made sustainable over the long-term. When building a new museum, let’s avoid the problems other cities face with competing Hispanic, Latino/a/x institutions. New institutions can lead to competition for resources and politically contentious relationships. We need centers like MECA and TBH to thrive while we build a new museum. Museums and cultural centers are a democratizing force. The more the better.

(l) Ballet Folklorico at MECA, (r) Dia De Los Muertos performance at TBH

(l) Ballet Folklorico at MECA, (r) Dia De Los Muertos performance at TBH

There’s plenty of money out there to help establish the museum. A new institution is possible by harnessing our population’s financial clout, seeking partnerships with the various regional and neighborhood chambers of commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the county and city government, as well as corporate, non-profit, multiple endowments, trusts and funding mechanisms. The time for this has come. We are 45% of the population. Other visions are currently on the table, such as Museo Guadelupe Atzlan, the Hispanic Archives of the Houston Public Library, and the Institute for Hispanic Culture. Fresh ideas abound for more cultural centers, with spaces providing for the performing arts and civic dialogues. Valuable discussions about our “cultural capital” being held across the city demonstrate the constituency is here and the currency is growing. 

Artists must have a seat at the table during the creation of the museum. While a board of trustees is responsible for the fiduciary stability of the institution, the aesthetic vision and goals must be built by people of expertise. A new artist advisory board (with maximum inclusivity and equality) must work in parallel with the board. Emerging artist organizations have formed, such as MANTECA HTX (the online line artist registry and events/program calendar) and the Houston Alliance for Latinx Arts (HALA). Each flexes our cultural muscles, creates new art networks, highlight issues of advocacy, and impacts the entire arts scene of the region. Artists (the term is used broadly) cannot be taken for granted in establishing a new cultural institution. Artists must be valued from the start, and their contribution to the serious dialogue of its formation and development ensures the credibility and long-term vibrancy of any arts institution. 

(L) Moe Penders,  Volvo P1800 , 2019. Volvo headlights from 1963-1971, multi-media. (R) Ariel Masson,  Iron Bones , 2003. Acrylic and ink on paper, 120″ x 52.

(L) Moe Penders, Volvo P1800, 2019. Volvo headlights from 1963-1971, multi-media. (R) Ariel Masson, Iron Bones, 2003. Acrylic and ink on paper, 120″ x 52.

These ideas are not exclusively mine. I’ve spoken with and heard from a variety of people, and consulted many museum directors, arts administrators and non-profit professionals about their experiences. There are many models for how Latino and Mexican-American culture centers are being formed across the state and the country. All of our various visions can be combined into a force that makes a new museum in Houston a reality. We can come together through ideas of its function and accessibility — around the very necessity of finally having a museum that collects our art. This is an ambitious and expansive vision. All the various Spanish-speaking nationalities, artists, civic and business leaders, curators, administrators, educators and our fellow citizens (young and mature), neighborhoods and communities can confer with each other. It should be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, have a functioning board of trustees, an artists advisory board, an executive director responsible to the boards, curators, and conservators, who works with program managers to build a consistent level of programing throughout each year. A new museum must maintain the structure and professionalism to do all of these things while helping to create a new cultural face for the region.

La Primavera of Latino/a/x art is a momentous time to begin the serious discussion and organization for how and what a new Hispanic/Latino/a/x/Mexican-American museum in Houston should be. 

What shall we call it? Let’s tread thoughtfully on this idea: Houston’s “El Museo de las Americas?” “Nuestra Museo de Houston?” 

Henry G. Sanchez is a Houston-based artist and a contributor to Glasstire. Sanchez is the founder and director of L.O.C.C.A: Law Office Center for Citizenship and Art and the BioArt Bayoutorium

“Las Fronteras: Houston artist working with Nature”, bio-artist presentations on April 7, 2019


   After a faulty hdmi adapter, a bad connection to the sound system, and a rain delay, “Las Fronteras: Houston artists working with Nature” was finally able to commence on April 7th. The first evening program was cancelled on April 3rd. So we decided to compress all the artists to one evening of presentations. In attendance were the artists presenters Sarah Sudhoff, Angel Lartigue, Francis Almendarez and his mother Jacqueline Posada. Instead of staging the program outside, inside the office space would be safest, in case of another threat of rain. This time the technical problems were solved and at least a dozen people showed up.

   This panel presentation differed from the typical art panel discussions. I purposely played a minimal role as moderator. I didnt feel the need to guide the artists to discuss each other’s practice. Not necessary to interject my comments or perceptions about their artwork. Very few, if any, questions from me. I sat aside, took notes and reminded when them when their times were running long. And they all did. Each took at least 30 minutes. To be fair, this should have been spread to two nights. But one has to make due with circumstances as they come.

  Though the evening ran longer than I expected at least I was able to accomplish something that I believe had not been done in the Houston art scene before: Latino/a/x Bio-artists talking about how their work intersects with the world of biology, perm-culture, science and nature.

   If you wish to read about these artists and the context of their work, please go to the link below.




EVENT w/ TEJAS: Lucha por Nuestra Tierra/Fight for Our Home, June 23rd.

After a good number of meetings & follow through with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) and our artist organizing group (Ronald L. Jones, Laura Napier and her partner Justin, Stalina Villareal, Liza Watkins), I would say that the festival day came together and we had a successful event!


I’ll admit, I found myself doing more than anticipated. After a final follow-up meeting 5 days before with a detailed To Do List there was; taking inventory of TEJAS chairs and tables needed; editing and writing the text for the flyer, making sure it was out early; collecting and curating the mp4 files for the video installation; organizing and curating the exhibition of children’s art from Manchester and video installation;


providing and running the AV system and power cables; running the water-hose for the silk-screener; arraigning tents; managing any trouble spots throughout the festival; and of course, setting up and breaking down the event. Whew!

My nephew Marty came to assist me throughout the day. Couldn’t do all the managing without him.


So what did we do at LUCHA POR NUESTRA TIERRA/FIGHT FOR OUR HOME evening?:

Well, I provided two new videos “Plecostomus” and “Brays”. Included as well were two videos from Laura.


Laura also provided her videos and used my lighting equipment for the video room to create PSAs.

Ronald responded with his portable silkscreen table, which much like a hat box. Bags were ready for silk-screening thanks to Stalina. She occupied the sustainable art-making station.


Liza brought two bilingual poets from (Inprint Poetry Buskers) that drafted poems for attendees. This turned out to be a real hit. 


As the subject matter was dictated by the attendees and were given the chance to recite their poems in front of the audience. It made what could have been a conceptual exercise into something participatory.


Justin came up with a ring toss game with cardboard rings modeled after the chemical graphic of Benzene. Very funny and everyone played.


Juan and Ana Parras (TEJAS founders) brought the necessary tables and chairs. Dee Segun (TEJAS, Exec. Dir.) and Yvette Arellano, (TEJAS staff), provided information about toxic popcorn. TEJAS staffer, Jessica Hernandez, made sure there was plenty of free food and refreshments for everyone.


In terms of managing the event, I kind let things happen as they became ready. In some cases I had no choice, because performers, programs, etc. changed as the day progressed. No need to be anal about who goes first. I let things be free flowing. There was plenty to do. I would say it was a big success! Not perfect. Unpredictable at times. Spontaneous. But most importantly everyone enjoyed themselves, had food and drink, plus the children had something to do!

Stalina and I discussed having a “debrief” with our organizing group to talk about the things that worked and didn’t and why. I suggested to everyone that we introduce this new model we created to a general Arts Takes Action Houston meeting. We need to share this with others to get them started doing something. More on this later.


Seemed like December brought some more good news. A long awaited interview by Robert Boyd is finally out on Glasstire. Back in September Robert became the first person to dialog with at my installation in DiverseWorks (see previous blogs). He was soon commissioned to interview me for the online art journal. It was a long conversation, recorded over several hours. The transcription, written in the article, is a fraction of the overall interview. So here it is, a month later, yet I am appreciative of Robert’s work, Rainey Knudson, Christina Rees and all the staff on Glasstire. And a special thank you to Xandra Eden. Click on the link or the image to understand a little more about my background.



La Unida Once (the United Eleven) had a Christmas party on December 17th, which also served as an award ceremony. In addition to serving delicious Mexican food, they passed out certificates of appreciation, coffee cups with their logo and t-shirts to the people who helped them the past year. Well, the items are not nearly as important as having the recognition from this group. They are establishing an immigrant family network in the East End, as they did in southwest Houston. Because I provided a space for them to meet at LOCCA, they wanted to show their appreciation during the ceremony. Im just happy to offer a safe and convenient location. Thanks La Unida Once and to Raul, their main organizer! I appreciate the "Appreciation".

OFFICE DIALOG final entry 10

desk view

desk view

LINES DRAWN, the exhibition, closed on Saturday Nov. 18th. I want to thank curator, Xandra Eden for inviting me to be part of this great show and providing me a platform to introduce new ideas about citizenship and extraterritorial art spaces.

(top) "Senses, Thought, Imagination", (bottom) "The Borders and Citizenship"

(top) "Senses, Thought, Imagination", (bottom) "The Borders and Citizenship"

Thank you to everyone who came to visit me and to all the artists in the show. It was great having conversations throughout the show having learned more from the exchange and about the people who I engaged with.

accumulated signs.

accumulated signs.

The show had to close early at 5pm because it became a venue for a wedding of Sixto Wagan, University of Houston Director of the Center for Art and Social Engagement. We met through various meeting of Arts Takes Action Houston. He was very sorry because never come by for a conversation. Still, I decided to make a sign in honor of his marriage. It said “Asunto de Amore por la Justicia”, “Love matters for Justice”.  Which of course is the subtitle of Nussbaum’s book, Political Emotions. It made him tear up.

"Love Matters for Justice"

"Love Matters for Justice"


Jim Pirtle, founder/owner of Houston downtown establishment/art space NotsuoH is an dear, old friend. We’ve known each other since the height of the Commerce Street Warehouse days in the late 80’s. On the last day of the exhibition he and I talked about how emotions affect society. Jim described the Bad Apple Theory - the jerk, the slacker, and the depressive pessimist; his theory of five personality traits that describe communities; how he hates safe zones and how some arts spaces that do not challenge people’s ideas can only serve their own tribe. Ironically, he says how anger is the most destructive emotion in a democratic society.


I challenged him about how righteous anger can be beneficial. I mentioned the example of Martin Luther King Jr., he talked about the rhetoric of Malcolm X. Jim said he read a study how women are better than men about reading emotions when only looking at the eyes of another person (27/30 for women to 17/30 for men). This was an intense and animated conversation reinforced by years of intimate, intense experiences.

Alice Serna McDougall, on the other hand, is a brand-new friend. We met through volunteering with United We Dream earlier this year. In addition to UWD she is a member of LGBTQ support groups and the ACLU observer. She always has been a civil/social rights advocate since the aids crisis in Houston in the 1980s. It’s what she’s about. I admitted to her that I worry about her and others like her from the burn out that eventually happens during charged periods of our lives. Caregivers for the traumatized need help as well. This is a lot of daily stress for her, her partner and family.


The Resistance will test the stamina many activists. Alice reassured me. She’s a veteran and knows how to take care of herself. It seems she is impervious to falling apart, she will never burn out. Then maybe I worried about myself.

Other last day visitors:


Angel Latrigue is a young artist making work about the intersection of cultural identity and bio-science. I encouraged him to stick with it and how this type of work is an open frontier that very few people have tread upon. Must let him borrow my book, The Molecular Gaze, by Suzanne Anker.

My Aunt Laura, in town for Thanksgiving, came by to see what I was doing. A long time public school teacher, she’s another outraged progressive. She loved the work and told me she was very proud.




DREAM ON @ LOCCA was a successful event on Nov. 10th! It was LOCCA’s the first collaboration this year with United We Dream. The volunteers did a remarkable job of setting up with posters, banners, food and refreshments. Undocumented story tellers recalled and presented their experience to an audience of supporters and elected officials: State Representatives Gene Wu and Alma Allen, Houston City Councilmember Karla Cisneros and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. This bipartisan group was asked to state before cameras their support for a clean Dream Act. They all did. Our undocumented immigrant speakers were all in turn more articulate, eloquent and compelling than the next. More than a chance to appeal to elected officials for firm political support, DREAM ON was a celebration. The night ended with a thirty-minute set from the Mydolls, Houston’s legendary punk band. It was amazing, mind blowing, to see them play in LOCCA’s backyard!! My thanks to all the UWD volunteers who helped set up and break down. Looks like we may do this again next month. Stay tuned!


“Sovereignty still struggles to control the body.” Delilah Montoya’s definitions of sovereignty addresses bloodlines and genetic origin…unlike the term that refers to nation states with jurisdictional borders. Delilah recognizes the 17th/18th century Spanish and Portugese practice of systematizing and classify the hierarchies of races and ethnicity with portrait paintings using her new book of recent photos “Contemporary Casta Portraiture: Nuestra Calidad” (Calidad = pure blood or status).


Instead she photographs families she knows from New Mexico and Texas and pairs them with the results of DNA test to determine their biological origin. Her book exposes how all humans are a mixture of different ethnicities and backgrounds. Considering that the current times we live where the sentiment of “blood and soil” has becoming a frequent refrain, this is noteworthy art project. Her photo book and her process becomes symbolic of the thesis behind the work. “Casta Portraiture” is a “hybrid” collaboration between the artist and the families portrayed with the use of digital technology and bio-sciences. Our conversation went further into the notions of “passing” (see Rachel Dolezal). In Delilah’s opinion, Doleza “passing” as black (stealing or gaining agency) denied an African American that same agency. Talked about the Badanius Manuscript (the first herbal medical book made in the Americas, authored by two Aztecs); and learned of the cultural theorist Homi H. Bhaba and his ideas of how people used mimicry, ambiguity and hybridity to create new identities in the New World.


Felix E Salinas (87 yrs), my father’s long time law partner, came so see what I was doing. I’ve talked with him before about this type of art making and art practice. He didn’t understand at first and seemed skeptical. Now he’s starting to understand more how the law office fits with the art. After all he still practices there, showing up 5 days a week. It helps to visualize what the work means. Interestingly he put together LOCCA with its mission and how circumstances, the events in my life precipitated my move back here and affected its purpose. “It’s unfortunate they died because of their health that you decide to move here and this started for you another journey. You go through hardships, and maybe it was meant to be, in order to accomplish what you are doing.”


Oct 28th was non-stop for me. 7 visitors and 4 conversations that day.

First, my sister Leticia comes by with my Aunt Licha. I spent time explaining the LINES DRAWN show to her. She liked the Pablo Lasch work as well as Jorge’s and JP’s. I wasn’t sure how our conversation was going to develop but she instantly started talking about how her name has changed over the years. From her birth certificate, to her marriage and driver’s licenses’, passport, bills and bank statements, etc. This was not by her design or choice but because it was imposed on her by authorities that did not understand the Spanish surname custom of the order of maiden name to marriage name. One could also say English speaking, Anglo/US authorities are confused or ignorant of the culture, or perhaps the name changes were done for the sake of convenience and preferences. Her original name, Maria Louisa Garcia de Villareal, has changed four times throughout her life. She now goes by Mary Garcia Herrera.


This is an example of someone without a choice in deciding her identity. It was made by one authority after another making the decision for her. Leticia pointed it out that a male relative of ours resisted this simplification in his passport and made sure his name was written and spelt in the way he wanted. This example runs contrary if you are a woman as the name clarification becomes more complex when the marriage name change is adopted. Still it seems that there is one rule and custom for men, another for women.


Deborah Grotfeldt (long time Houston arts leader) showed up with guest. It didn’t take me long to see that it was Caroline Huber (former director of the first DiverseWorks). Wow! This blew me away. I haven’t seen or spoken to either of them in almost 26 years. I tried to explain my history from Houston to New York and now back again. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to engage in-depth in conversation. Turns out they had leave for Deborah Colton Gallery to deliver a talk that afternoon about the Houston art scene in the 70’s and 80’s. I would really love to talk Deborah Grotfeldt and sound her out for advice about my project. Caroline spends her time in California, but she recently bought a place here in Houston. She will be here part-time. It would be great to have her back. I am still really so amazed that they remember me at all!


Rob Greenstein, Chair of DiverseWorks Board of Directors, was another unexpected person. Rob is originally from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and still carries the accent. He’s retired from working with the US Customs and Border protection. Now he spends his time serving with arts organizations and artists, art museums etc. Which makes his “retirement” years spiritually and intellectually fulfilling and fun. We talked in general about how our country suffers from very narrow self-interests of our fellow citizens (from all income strata). Voting against our own national interests leads to the fraying of a working safety net, causes economic insecurity for all and exacerbates our efforts to battle global climate change. There are multiple reasons for this and ironically it comes from the very same issues causing the problems in society. So what motivates some to vote the way they do: short-term tax relief, a sense of false Nationalism, racism? We worry about our desire for short term relief will affect our ability to sacrifice and pay for its consequences in the future. He and I may not be around in 20-30 years. But, I have hope with the millennials in our country. It was a sobering exchange.


  On Wednesday Nov. 8th, 6:30-7:30pm, at DiverseWorks, we held an open forum called Extraterratorial Sites & Persons”, an Artist & Community Roundtable. It was moderated by DiverseWorks Exec. Dir., Xandra Eden and myself. We invited a number of artist that were willing to accept questions from us about that artist's position in society/communities and artist concepts of extraterritoriality and citizenship. The following is the transcript of my delivered remarks about the subject of “extraterritorial” artworks and artists.:              ...............................................................................................

    Why Extraterritoriality? One of the major concepts of the show is how artists test, challenge, reimagine, disrupt, and question received notions of borders and boundaries particularly in the context of nationality-nationalism, immigration-emigration, equity-inequality of power relations and basic human rights. Extraterritoriality in its strict, historic definition refers the state of exemption of local laws or jurisdiction that are applied to specific sites or individuals where competing national and international interests meet. For example these can be places like embassies, foreign missions, military bases or ships, the UN and to people like diplomats, government officials or workers, or personnel from the armed forces. Extraterritoriality can come from bi-national agreements, treaties, diplomatic negotiations.

  Extraterritorial places are where contiguous nations lie next to each, such as land borders or when they share international waters or even the earth’s atmosphere. They can become Extraterritorial zones, such as the border of the US and Mexico. They can be Special Economic Zones. The border becomes the border landscape enveloping counties, cities, municipios, state governments; the people and populations, businesses and homes and the multi-varied authorities, laws, governance mechanisms that exists within the zones. They become places with their own customs, norms, general practices and laws.

Those in attendance: Phillip Pyle II, Jennifer Gardner, Robert Boyd, Rachel Cook, Jake Margolin, Nick Vaughan, Pablo Lasch (via Skype), Laura Napier, Dr. Andrew J. Gordon, Alexandra Kelton, Terry Suprean, Xandra Eden, (others attending were a DW intern and unknown artist) and myself.

Those in attendance: Phillip Pyle II, Jennifer Gardner, Robert Boyd, Rachel Cook, Jake Margolin, Nick Vaughan, Pablo Lasch (via Skype), Laura Napier, Dr. Andrew J. Gordon, Alexandra Kelton, Terry Suprean, Xandra Eden, (others attending were a DW intern and unknown artist) and myself.

   Extraterritoriality can extend to the places that juxtapose, overlap, reside in the same place which at times conflict. But let us consider other kinds places that have their own rules, norms. Shouldn’t we consider the spaces of art and artists with their own “states of exception” for imagination? They can be neutral spaces, within the normal public zones, such as the museum, parks and art institutions. But they can be places that suspend, or conflict, challenge traditional norms and rules and establish new types of communities. These can be the private galleries, the art spaces, alternative art venues, artist run projects spaces, installations and even the artist studio. They become the artist extraterritorial space. Like the traditional definitions of extraterritoriality, they also involve communities, transnational communications, with transcultural exchanges which can happen on borders and border zones. Artists, however, have created their own special kind of extraterritorial zones.

   During my conversation with Michael Galbreth, one half of the Art Guys, Michael said to me, and a paraphrase: “Territory is how humans organize themselves and establish rules for behavior. Its binds the people in the spaces and places they live. Its called politics: organization of human behavior with agreed upon codified rules and laws. It is traditionally tied to territory. However, people interpret laws and codes which tend to restrict. And artists, like any other citizen, wants to explore the borders and beyond that territory. They want to travel and see other spaces.”

   Michael then adds, “extraterritoriality also becomes a framework for thinking, with the “frame” as the context and the border of the ideas and art. As artists we are constantly perforating that frame, exploring around it and exploring outside to the other territories both conceptually and physically. Artist do a very good job of materializing the space. You can touch, smell, feel, taste and become part of it.”

   The physical manifestations of “extraterritorial art spaces” develop their own rules and norms. These rules are part and parcel of the artist prerogatives and unique skills sets, such as: a place for having senses, thought, imagination; a place for you to emote freely and beneficially without coercion; a place where you can affiliate, collaborate and becomes friends with people that are not like yourself; and most importantly to have the space to Play. When artists experiment with new norms in those spaces for themselves and their communities it perhaps can provide the chance for many citizens to be part of and enjoy an art extraterritorial space. Perhaps this becomes an example where the rules, codes, and norms are “internal” just as much as they are external.

    Though some of these extraterritorial art spaces may already have embedded societies, they also develop new communities, while being inclusive to outside and incoming groups. While these, sometimes, neutral spaces exist inside the prevalent, normal, traditional, public territory, they reach out and move outside the “frame” in the direction towards the general public and community service organizations, not just art organizations. It is outside of those spaces or here (in the self-made extraterritoriality) that artists can find themselves having another kind of role in society rather than just the author or arbiter of aesthetics.


    So what about extraterritorial persons/artist? Many artists can move freely around and outside the “frame” as Michael put it, to explore other extraterritorial spaces. Ideas of internal and external spaces are occupied intuitively and the inclination to slip and cross borders while existing in undefined spaces is continually explored artistically. The “extraterritorial persons/artist” may be born in one country but work globally around the themes of borders and border spaces, for example,:

    Alfredo Jaar, born in Chile, lives in New York, but works internationally, explores the sociopolitical division that result from globalization. In 2000 he created the art project called THE CLOUD: a performance that took place at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California consisting of classical music soloists accompanying the release of three thousand white balloons that symbolize the people who lost their lives trying to cross the US and Mexico border, known as “la frontera”, over that decade.

    Francis Alys, a Belgian born artist who is based in Mexico, explores spatial and social realties such as national borders with ideas about localism and globalism, in areas of conflict and community. With his art piece called “Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River”, he organized a line of kids from the Spanish side and the Moroccan side of the Straits of Gibraltar (the ocean border and narrowest point between Europe to Africa). He had them walk single file into the sea with a boat made from a shoe, they formed an imaginary bridge swimming towards each other shores and so they could meet in the horizon. It was a way to illustrate the contradiction of promoting the global economy while limiting global migration.

     One of the artists in our show Mariam Ghani, researches spaces and places where social, political and cultural structures take tangible forms. Though she works on projects in Afghanistan, her family’s country of origin, here at DiverseWorks she exhibits her video “The City & The City” a video narrative of the book of the same title by China Mieville. Her video however follows the geography and the division of St. Louis, MO, as a liminal spaces within the city. This was done at the same time after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, just outside of St. Louis, in 2015.

     To bring the conversation back to where we are, in this circle of people within an alternative art gallery; an extraterritorial gathering within the extraterritorial art space which is separate, but part of the traditional territory of Houston, we want to talk about the role of artists in society and how extraterritorial art spaces and artist can work beyond our “frame”.



To give one a sense of the transformations happening at the installation at DiverseWorks, here is a montage of the signs that have hung on the model portico during the course of the exhibition.

(clockwise from top right; “Zones of the Borders”; “Live for Nature”; “Your Body is Citizenship”; “Rights are Internal”; “Friendship and Respect”; “Play is Duty”.)

(clockwise from top right; “Zones of the Borders”; “Live for Nature”; “Your Body is Citizenship”; “Rights are Internal”; “Friendship and Respect”; “Play is Duty”.)

Each phrase relates and refers to the types of internal rights that all humans should have and claim to have a fulfilled life and citizenship. (see Nussbaum’s Central Human Capabilities). They are made in Spanish, but I added the translations for our readers. There are two more weeks of the exhibition. The sign changes every week, so two more phrases will be displayed. Afterward, I assemble all the signs at the base of my desk. It becomes a mass compilation of terms signifying basic human rights.



Though we already had a conversation about extraterritorial space weeks ago, Oct. 14th would be Michael Galbreth’s first visit. What a nice surprise to bring along his wife Rainey Knudson!


Michael has been interested in the idea of having his art work notarized since we last spoke. I explained to him that the notary is there to certify documents and affidavits and to verify the signers. It is also about affirming a fact or something truthful within a document before a certified notary. He brought along a proposition placed in a folder: Michael presented an edition of 10 prints, with an artist proof, of the type written statement “The Art Guys are not artists.”, each with their stamp and seal in the right corner and the number at the bottom center. He wanted this art work notarized. Of course, I understood the subtext & subtlety of his contradictory statement. I found this statement to be true and the fact he was claiming it as art-work provided me the permission I needed. I certified the authenticity of the document. But he added, he wanted my notary seal to be part of the piece and asked that I place it on the front, bottom left of the page. I obliged and signed it with a red pen.  Is this a collaboration?!


Rainey wanted something as well. She decided to write on white card stock, “I love my life, I love my family, I love my work” and signed it. This was definitely a statement of fact at the time she wrote it and did so willingly, so I notarized it as well. She also requested my LOCCA stamp and seal to be added to the document as part of the “artist” imprimatur. They were both very lovely and funny. Michael wanted to add his thumbprints to my notary log. Good thing for the red ink pad. Now I have Michael, the Art Guys, thumbprint impression on the notary log! That should be worth something someday. Rainey paid the typical $10 fee for notarizing her statement. Michael on the other hand, gave me the pick of his edition in exchange for the fee.



On Oct. 14th I met with Justin who was visiting the gallery for the first time. He was very candid about his experience with traveling and spoke about the barriers and the necessity of acquiring passports and visas. This was reminiscent of my first conversation with Robert Boyd (please see entry 1 in Blog). Justin would visit particular areas along the US borders to Mexico and Canada and made the interesting observation of our physical and psychological sense of national boundaries. When one is actually looking at a Canadian border crossing the boundaries could be just a narrow street with a patrol officer in a booth; In the case of Mexico, particularly along the Texas border, it is just a river. Justin was comparing the various discrepancies and “holes” or porous spots. Obviously there are legal, political and racial policies that mold the physical character of our northern and southern borders. We didn’t have to mention the various “walls” along Mexico and the US. But he pointed out how our concepts of the national demarcation psychologically shape our sense of what the boundary looks and feels like. WE are not far from each other. WE live just next door. In many ways, its about understanding that the other place is just over there, close by, a short walk or a stone throw away. The real “wall” exists in out minds.


Then he observed, that while some places may seem physically impenetrable, why then it could be so difficult for some and simpler for other? We recognized that for some people (the 1%), traveling to another country is no effort at all, in either the cost or labor. They can pay others to do all the work for them, have someone pack their bags, book a flight, get the visas in order, charter the flight and all they need to do is get on the plane. These people are not encumbered by nationality or commitments to other countries. They can live where they wish whenever they wish. A word to describe these people are, “Supra-nationals”. It would be different that Thomas Friedman’s simplification of these one-percenters; “super empowered individuals.” It is not “supranational” like a multinational body (EU). Perhaps adding the suffix “individual” would help differentiate.

Other questions we considered: Comparing Texas voter registration to New York State; In NY, you can register online. In Texas, registration forms must be mailed. Why not get a passport or visa as easily as registering to vote? We talked about EU passports for citizens to travel wherever in the continent. What about one day having a North American Hemisphere or South American Hemisphere passport?


I sat with Tracy Spruce, poet and English high school instructor and Terry Suprean, artist/founder and director of Civic TV during my office hours on Saturday Oct 4th.

After 7 years teaching in Travis County, Tracy returned to HISD this semester. We got very involved in her teaching methods and the workshop curriculum that HISD has now adopted. Many of us recall how the typical English class was taught with a full reading, with book reports, on the classics of English literature. Boring. I scarcely remember the books we covered. This has now evolved to teaching a reading and writing Workshop where the student themselves create their curriculum by deciding the books they prefer to read. This entails the entire class reading books and writing memoirs at various stages of mastery while all being in the same grade level, in the same classroom, at the same time. Students read what and write what they are interested in and what engages them the most. The teacher honors the decisions of the students, supports classroom collaborations among the students, with a concern for and consideration with one another, and with an open-ended inquiry into social critique. The classroom becomes an extension of democratic society outside the school grounds. It is the English class as apprenticeship for citizenry. Tracy has been teaching this method for 15 years. Now the workshop has been adopted by HISD since 2014 or so.


It’s stunning to know that HISD has implemented a new, progressive curriculum where students co-author their education over the past few years. Which means the first student body educated under the new curriculum should be graduating this year. This bodes well for our young Hispanic students who have the lowest graduating rates in the nation. Tracy teaches at one such school where a majority of the children are “at risk” and finish high school with some of the lowest levels of reading and writing skills in the State.

One student has inspired Tracy how she will work and guide her class. She refers to him as her “Spirit-Animal” child. Her students invented a new word inspired by her energy; “Spruciful.”

Terry Suprean and Alex came later in the day. Terry also teaches high school, though at a private school. It is his position that all artist serve as perpetual teachers. We serve not just as instructors, but as mentors, life examples and perhaps future collaborators. “Art is play for adults.” As an artist, he instinctively understands the importance of play in the public life and how having an affiliation and connection with artists and art classes are important for having a tolerant and democratic outlook.  It just so happened that the new statement on the façade above reads, “El Jugar es Deber”, (Playing is Duty).


Terry contrasts his experience at his school with the another private, all boys high school across the street with no art classes. One school values diversity, the other does not. “Imagination is the beginning of empathy.”


Terry schooled me on the ideas of Derrida’s “descensus” where discussion and even dissension is part of the democratic discourse and how the “contract” should exist for citizens in private, public as well as with the state. I came back to the concept of “choice” when hearing this.


We both agreed that artists should have a primary role in authoring this new “contract”. But he insisted that a new, ever evolving contract is needed with room for “descensus.” I had forgotten that Terry was once a pre-law student before becoming an artist!


Saturday, September 30th, was my first day sitting at my “Office Dialog” desk installation (perhaps I should call it my office hours). I received curator/writer Robert Boyd and Michael Galbreth of the Art Guys.


Robert and I talked about his dual citizenship with Australia and the US. He was born there to American parents and left at 3 years old. He talked about how he wanted an “out” in case things go bad here in the U.S. after Trump’s inauguration. We conversed more deeply about how life can be different there than here and which place could be more life affirming. Certainly, there are benefits of staying here in the US versus what he could get there. However, there are benefits that he can receive in Australia that are not possible in the US such as universal health care and strict gun control laws for example. I tried to get him into a conversation of what would be more fulfilling as a citizen of each place, what sort of duties and obligations would be needed from him in each country and for anyone else. Personal safety and having an established safety net were uppermost in the type of entitlements that would appeal to me I admitted. However, for Robert, being 6ft, 6 inches and the body of a linebacker, a low crime rate and the threat to his personal body integrity is not what he worries about.  Our dialog meandered through the intricacies of applying for an Australian passport, to the writers Bruce Chatwin and Robert Hughes, to the artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov as artists making alterative worlds and private, theoretical utopias. This would not be too dissimilar to the heterotopic space of the art installation we sat in that day. I must go back and study their work again. Thanks Robert!

My conversation with Michael Galbreth was through our cell phones. Michael decided that calling him over the phone would be better for the concept of extra-territoriality.


This got very interesting as we touched upon artists prerogatives and whether that can be realized by all peoples and citizens. “Space” as internal space was discussed. Artists seem to do a very good job of defining and creating extra-territorial space. Michael brought up a very good point about citizenship. For all the concepts of and the value of “choice” to realize true citizenship, we actually do not choose which states we become citizens of when we are born. I wonder how long in infancy and childhood that sense of oblivious statehood exists? There are a lot of ideas that we can expand upon. Ever the erudite person, Michael brought up Leibniz’ Nature and Freedom, and the one and many distinctions of metaphysical views; Thomas Paine’s recognition of small change, “It’s the direction not the magnitude” of our intentions that make a difference in society; and Thomas McEvilley’s Shape of Ancient Thought as something to consider when we think about where our ideas of citizenship originate. I invited him to come visit me in person. It made me very pleased that he complimented my idea for the show of an artist trying to define the internal and extraterritorial space to converse about these ideas. But he especially admired that I can have participant’s statements/notes/drawings notarized if it is truthfull. Praise from Cesar!



The East End Plan is an experiment is to discover the affects civic planning, commercial development and re-uses of the East End’s urban landscape have on its residents. Templates are given for local residents to draw with crayons. Color is associated with the participants "feeling" and “choices” toward the places, they feel safe, congregate, share, fear, wish to visit, find mysterious and to areas they cannot and do not wish to visit.

It is emotional map making and creates a "gestalt of place" that identifies the internal perception of the resident's living in Houston's East End with their neighborhood and its geographic features. “What are the effects on the individual perception towards open, common or private spaces that do not consider or consult with the local population?”

East End cultural map

Very happy to announce LOCCA’s emerging presence on Houston’s East End cultural map. The East End Foundation creates a map that pinpoints creative spaces, studios, venues, murals, cultural centers, historical sites, etc. as way to celebrate the East End’s designation as a Texas Commission on the Arts cultural district.  While still waiting to have a pin dropped on the map itself, at least they made a fancy cartoon of my place! It was featured on the EEF Instagram: #cultura_eastendhou More to come…..

“aquí para quedarse” and new wheelchair ramp, Jan. 30

Everything evolves, transforms, changes… So must the message of my LOCCA. I took my time after the election to consider various possible quotes. I could have painted something out of rage or to instigate a provocation. But I found one that my friends from United We Dream mentioned repeatedly in their twitters, slogans, gritas etc.

This message has a threefold interpretation (really four). It says in Spanish a message to our elected officials, law enforcement and our national government that immigrants who have lived here for so long and suffered due to discriminatory immigration policies should stay here and have amnesty. It was good enough for Reagan in the 80’s, why not now.

Second, this law office that was bequeathed to me will stay in practice. I have been working very hard on making repairs and renovations, and to ensure its safety in order for the offices to be ready for rent. I want newly barred attorneys to come here to work for the community doing family law, immigration and to provide services that are needed. This was due to my father practicing law for 55 years, and I want to be around for another 55 years to provide affordable services to this Spanish speaking, low income community.

Lastly, it is a message to many of my progressive friends thinking of moving out of the country because of the election of the current White House. There will be a lot of major issues that threaten the country. Some people are trying to divide this country, others are trying to create a more perfect union. In politics many times for every “action” there can be an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s third law of motion). The thought of leaving the US for states with more welcoming or less right-wing policies is tempting. But consider those left behind that do not have the freedom to choose to up and move to another country. I will follow the examples of my parents and previous generations during and before the civil rights challenges of the twentieth century. In spite of the discrimination they chose to make this place their home. Aqui para quedarse, y luchar!

I also had time to finish the new wheelchair ramp for the office. Now seniors and the disabled can enter more easily.