Rolando Briseño

Tower of Life

Food is a prominent motif in much of my work. It represents culture both in its culinary value and in its communicative expression. In my work, I explore these aesthetic values representing culture in motion—its evolution through juxtaposition. In the sculpture Tower of Life, the corn (maiz) tortilla ingredient represents the food staple of the Americas, indigenous to Mexican culture. The flour (harina) tortillas surrounding the structure represent the American influence on the ancient corn tortilla, originating the flour alternative preferred in northen Mexico and Texas. The Tower Life Building (the structure's actual name) represents high culture with its architectural sophistication and engineering mastery. In fact, when the building was constructed in the late 1920s, it was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi. The juxtaposition of the simple maiz food staple with the urban structure challenges the hierarchical values and stereotypes in culture. The sculpture serves as a metaphor for the reconquista, the reconquering, of the cultural history of Texas, San Antonio in particular because of its rich Mexican heritage. I'm always trying to merge misguided stereotypes of low or micro culture with high or macro culture, expressing an expansion through inclusiveness, an impression that includes everything and everyone—an aesthetic hybrid of cultural evolution that reverses colonization. This blending is fundamental to the evolution of all culture—the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated or incompatible visions. Without this mingling, culture and civilization would become stagnant and benign without purpose.

Bicultural Table Setting

The Bicultural Table Setting, while symbolic, is not far from the real table settings for many Americans living in proximity either culturally or geographically to Mexico. This is the everyday vision and life of "border culture." One side is the traditional (natural) side and the other the technological (innovative) side. The Mexican tablecloth design on the right is organic (natural) with strawberries still on the vine. The wrist of the hand on the same side bears an old-fashioned wind-up watch with hands. The crafted utensils display attention to detailed design. In contrast, the American tablecloth pattern on the left is grid-like and controlled. The wrist watch on that side is digital and computerized with a television remote control within reach. Upon close inspection, one may notice the utilitarian nature of the sleek minimalist knife. And finally, the centered plate represents us, the convergence of everything, the apex of identity in continuous evolving motion, the vortex. The three rotating tomatoes halves rotate like quarks positioned in the proton. The tomatoes, a pre-Columbian food, spin freely from side to side, over a bar-code personage representing the consumerist identity of American culture.