Port San Antonio is among the central features of an art exhibit that celebrates our city’s military service members and installations.
The two large-scale collage works created by local artist Michael Menchaca re-interpret the legacy of the former Kelly (left) and Brooks (right) Air Force Bases.
The City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture, in conjunction with the City’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, is presenting City of Service, an exhibit that brings to life the rich history of military activity in San Antonio – as well as its impact on the community.
The exhibit runs through September 13 at the City of San Antonio’s Culture Commons Gallery, located at 115 Plaza de Armas.
City of Service features 34 works – all by San Antonio-based artists – whose subjects include the Women's Army Corps, Vietnam veterans with local roots, military bases, veteran homelessness and more.
Among these works are two large modernistic-folk pieces by local artist Michael Menchaca, which are displayed side-by-side and represent Port San Antonio (the former Kelly Air Force Base) and Brooks (the former Brooks Air Force Base). Menchaca was tasked with creating works that commemorate the legacy and assets of both Kelly and Brooks and how they are tied to the San Antonio community.
Menchaca's work illustrates the emergence of Port San Antonio as a large and dynamic technology and innovation campus.
“It was a huge honor to create works that commemorate both of the extraordinary legacies that Kelly and Brooks bases hold within the San Antonio community,” said Menchaca. “The challenge for me was in visualizing a simultaneous narrative that spoke to the history of service by, and for the community, while intermixing the culture of today.”
Menchaca developed original designs that describe the distinctive architecture of each military base, showcasing their unique features while also highlighting their significant historic events. Reverential portrayals of service members, in the style of Menchaca’s unique digital codex characters, reflect the demographics of San Antonio’s military service members.
Kelly Field - a site for test flights and pilot training in the early 20th century - is masterfully captured by Menchaca's unique style.
“It was always my intention to be as specific as possible with respect to depicting the architectural elements and landmarks of each base,” continued Menchaca. “When I composed each piece, I wanted to deliver the sensation of each specific place. One of my favorite tools for creating a sense of location is by making pattern designs inspired by the landscape. I also invoked the pictorial traditions of early manuscript paintings, with elaborate vertically orientated landscapes inhabited by many figures, to depict San Antonio as the international city that it is.”
“By drawing on pictorial traditions of the past, I hope to transport viewers into the history of two of San Antonio’s most remarkable military bases.”
Menchaca's depiction of the transition from Kelly Field to Kelly Air Force Base, which ushered in a new era of well-paying maintenance jobs for San Antonio's middle class.