No Face No Case; We’ve got it covered!
By Michael Pennywark
Photos courtesy of artist
Tired of polar vortices, figure skating controversies, Olympic ring malfunctions and everything else this winter has thrown at you? Have no fear: March is here, the month of green beer. Also basketball madness, Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day, If pets Had Thumbs Day and of course everyone’s favorite, Fotofest–but they don’t rhyme quite as well. As always, Fotofest is set to take over every spare art space in the city and as can happen in such a big event; choosing what to see can be daunting. While there promises to be some great exhibitions, one not-to-be-missed event will be local photographer Jeanette Degollado’s show: “’No Face No Case; We’ve got it covered!’ A Retrospective of Houston Street Art and Culture.”
Showing at the Houston Visitors Center at City Hall and Commerce Street Gallery, the exhibition document street art and street artists from 1999 to 2023. I caught up with Degollado to talk about her exhibition, street art and public perception of the material. She explained that the inspiration for the show stemmed not only from her love for the art of graffiti but also “The eternal friends that I’ve met along the way-the things that I’ve learned about art and myself and most importantly the voice that was give to me, the voice of photography. I feel it an obligated honor to bust open my binders, which are overflowing with negatives, and the maxed out external hard drives that are collecting dust, and present a collection of images through my own narrative of my experience in the graffiti world.”
Degollado uses an alternative printing method on flashing, a material used in house construction for the mixed media prints. She also uses paint, emulsion chemicals and a printer to create images that imitate urban decay. Interestingly, the collection not only documents street art in Houston but also Degollado’s progression as a photographer. Degollado started shooting in 1999 to document art shows she was participating in and helping produce. Some of her first photographs will be on display in all their gritty, raw and beautiful glory. By her own admission, she has come a long way since then, and the show features portraits of Houston’s pioneers of street art from those days, as well as those of the most recent artists whose work you can see on Houston’s streets.
So what exactly is street art? According to Degollado, “My definition, simply put, is that street art is a form of graffiti. Meaning that this term is used to describe an unsanctioned, intentional expression of art in public space to communicate an idea or reflect everyday life. Personally, I am fascinated with the term ‘street art,’ because it encompasses diversity of material. I am excited to see what people will come up with as technology provides different materials and media.”
Of course, not everyone considers graffiti to be art. Some people might go as far as to call it a public nuisance, but as Degollado sees it, “because street art’s roots are grounded in a subculture, it of course goes against the grain. It will always be seen as a nuisance to people, but therein lies the beauty. It challenges ideals, it creates dialogue, and a chance to inform and reform.” She also points out that in reality, street art has become more accepted. “It has shaped our culture and everyday life. It is backed by corporate entities and collected amongst art aficionados. It is obvious that as time progresses, these artist will have had the resources to come into their own and create brilliant artwork.”
As for the artists themselves, Degallado had this to say: “It has been my experience that street artists are the most accepting and culturally diverse group of people that I have ever met. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are from, there is a commonality, the purpose it to ‘get up,’ to express yourself! There is a camaraderie and loyalty within this community like no other. It is a culture that speaks to the diversities of politics, religion, ideology, and most importantly humanity. It pays homage to the individual and the human within.”
The opening date for the exhibit at The Visitors Center at City Hall, is March 21st and the opening for the Commerce St. Gallery exhibit is on March 27th. To pair with Fotofest, Degollado is also publishing a book: “‘No Face No Case; We’ve Got it Covered’ A Retrospective on Houston Street Art and Culture from 1999-2014”. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go take a picture of my beer-guzzling, peanut-butter-loving, basketball-playing, polydactyl cat.
“No Face No Case; We’ve got it covered!” A Retrospective of Houston Street Art and Culture
The Visitors Center at City Hall
Opening March 21st
Commerce Street Gallery
Opening March 27th
by Michael Pennywark