San Antonio’s Spanish Missions have been an inspiration to artists and storytellers for generations. This spring, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures will offer an exhibit capturing the missions and other religious sites in sculpture.
“The Texas Missions & Churches of Roberto Cardinale” runs March 4 through Aug. 20. Cardinale, a former president of the San Antonio Art Institute, has incorporated elements from the missions, San Fernando Cathedral, El Paso’s Mission Ysleta and others into 12 wooden sculptures.
“Churches are my chosen subject matter and wood is my medium,” reads Cardinale’s artist statement. “I am an academically trained artist/sculptor that fell in love with ecclesiastical architecture as a young Benedictine monk. Throughout my life I have indulged my passion to see great works of architecture, but I have been especially drawn to, and made, church forms around the world, but most notably in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.”
Cardinale’s sculptures are artistic interpretations, rather than replicas or models. He captures the most notable elements of each structure, and enjoys the process of creating, without having to adhere to the exacting standards an accurate scale model would require.
Of the 12 sculptures in the exhibit, 10 will be displayed next to Cardinale’s original planning sketches. The Ysleta mission model will be displayed in its partially completed condition, giving viewers an insight into the artistic process that goes into each piece.
“My churches are sculptures because they are my expressions, rather than models or replicas, which are inspired by actual buildings,” Cardinale’s statement reads. “I take great joy in the act of making, and by cutting, shaping and finishing each piece into a pleasing sculpture; I am touching history and hoping that you share my love of these churches and the feelings of age, history and belief they embody.”
Sarah Zenaida Gould, the institute’s curator for the exhibit, will add the historic context to Cardinale’s sculptures with history panels detailing the sites’ findings and key architectural elements.
“Bob’s intricate sculptures are part of a storied tradition that includes artists such as Theodore Gentilz, Julian Onderdonk, Franco Mondini-Ruiz, and many others,” said Gould. “As we approach San Antonio’s Tricentennial, they are a strong visual reminder of the enduring impact of the missions across Texas – in our economy, in our landscape, and in numerous cultural traditions. Indeed, modern Texas can trace its roots to the early Spanish mission settlements that shaped many aspects of our state’s evolution.”
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults (12-64); $8 for seniors (ages 65+) and children (6-11); children 5 and under free; free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.