Photography only captures a moment, but those moments can tell impactful stories. Mike Lopez shared his own story at his freshman photography show, Los Jardines de Macondo, itself part of the ongoing collaboration between The Collective Brewing Project and the artist-driven nonprofit Art Tooth (of which I am a member).
Lopez met me on the back porch of Collective Brewing. The indoor space was crowded with supporters of the laudable charity Refugee Services of Texas. The recent show, Lopez said, is based on a traditional Day of the Dead altar, which typically centers around the picture of a deceased relative or loved one.
“Then I started to think about who was important in my life,” Lopez said. “I came to the conclusion that everything I am is a reflection of the people who have invested time and energy into me.”
Two large color portraits anchor his show, each featuring a woman who has played a formative role in his life — Holland Sanders, his longtime girlfriend, and Michelle Lopez, Mike’s transgender father.
“My father started to transition four or five years ago,” Lopez said. “It’s so important for me to feature her as she wants to be.”
Getting the right image took two days of photo shoots. The first session was emotional for both father and son. Michelle was dressed in women’s attire, her bare arms showing the physical scars that resulted from decades of outdoor construction work. The second and final attempt is beautifully captured. Michelle stands enveloped in greenery. The presence of lush plant life encapsulates how plants persist in even the most dire of circumstances yet benefit from the constant nurturing of a human hand, Lopez said. His longtime artistic muse Sanders is captured in her preferred state of motion.
“I wanted to capture her individuality,” he said. “You see her in two poses at once. I had her stand still in one direction. I hit her with some light at the beginning. Then, I had her move and hit her with light to paint her in. I feel that’s how she is. She is everywhere at once.”
The title of Lopez’ show is a familiar reference for fans of Gabriel García Márquez, author of 100 Years of Solitude.
“My father gave [a copy of the book] to me when I was having a crisis,” Lopez said, referring to a period of his life when he had conflicted feelings toward his Latino heritage. “Macondo is a lush place that deals with memory and family. The book purposefully mixes timelines.”
Lopez if halfway through his BFA in photography program at the University of Texas at Arlington. He’s exploring every facet of photography he can find. Following our interview, Lopez said he was heading to a studio shoot. Lopez and an unnamed friend planned to down a few shots of whiskey, enter into a voluntary fist fight, and photograph the bruised and banged up results with Lopez and his comrade holding each other in a tender embrace. The idea is to critique societal gender roles that often push men toward violence and incarceration.
“I think Fort Worth is blessed with an insane photographic community,” he said before heading off to his next photo shoot. “A lot of these people shooting today are going to end up in the Amon Carter because they are documenting Fort Worth as it is now.”
Lopez sees himself exploring photography through various projects over the next few years.
“I am trying to explore different ways of making art and approaching photography,” he said. “I’m happy right now being all over the place. There’s a feeling of reward and mental pleasure I get from this work.”
Lopez is the guest artist at Art Tooth’s North Texas Giving event this Thursday at Collective Brewing 5-10pm.
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On Tap this Week:
NTX Giving Day Benefiting Art Tooth. September 20 at The Collective Brewing Project.
From Art Tooth: Join Art Tooth on September 20 as we celebrate North Texas Giving Day at The Collective Brewing Project. The event, which features a pop-up dinner by Hao & Dixya, DJs Soy_Capaz and Martin Esco, and pink Art Tooth beer slushies, will feature local photographer Mike A. Lopez as part of the Art + Collective series featuring Mike A. Lopez. Admission is free but we do ask attendees to make a tax-deductible contribution in any amount to Art Tooth through the North Texas Communities Foundation online portal. To meet our growing operational costs, Art Tooth has set a goal of raising $2,500 for North Texas Giving Day. Thank you for supporting our mission on this important fundraising day. Visit the event page here.