EAF16 Artist Profile: Travis Boyer
“Lately I have been really focusing on collecting Selena prepaid phone cards from the 90’s; I like them as a sort of meta-currency,” artist Travis Boyer explains the ins-and-outs of his obsession with following Selena merchandise on eBay. His recent project at Socrates, part of the 2016 Emerging Artist Fellowship, is an homage to the late Tejano star, Selena Quintanilla Perez and her continued popular influence. Drawn from early modernist design, the singer’s cottage industry merchandising, and Boyer’s childhood memories, Selena Open Casting merges the three in sculptural form.
Selena rose to popularity as the most recognizable woman in Tejano music, a style consisting of hybridized popular northern Mexican, German, Afro-Cuban, and cumbia music. Her career culminated in an English cross-over shortly before her death at 23. Having grown up in Texas, Boyer was an avid Selena fan and remembers when the news broke about her death and the way it affected the community. “I remember girls in the hallways at school, crying together in these masses decorating cars with purple ribbons; nothing else mattered the day of her death, and in the weeks and months following, you saw how far her impact reached people.”
The title, Selena Open Casting, references the national open audition that was held for the 1997 biopic, Selena. Ultimately, Jennifer Lopez, the New York-born, Puerto-Rican-American singer and actress, was chosen to portray Selena, but Boyer sees the casting call that drew thousands of people as evidence of how accessible Selena’s image was and remains. “Selena has become this open source identity in which people can take and project their own ambitions.”
“Selena’s story is like that of many artists, combining ideas, going through this gauntlet of legibility.” When the artist first moved to New York City, he lived in Williamsburg. While there, he noticed small pop-up memorials on street posts and fences. “They were these conglomerates made of pictures, fake evergreen, and teddy bears; I loved the sincere and ephemeral nature of them.” Steel baskets and ceramic replicas of commemorative Selena Big Gulp cups that adorn to the lamp tower invite collective participation.
“I want my artwork to be accessible, to the point that people think about touching it, adding to it.” Boyer is interested in seeing how people interact with the piece and whether they will leave behind their own creations in homage. “It is not necessarily a Selena memorial, but a totem for Selena fans, I wonder if, and what, people will leave in the empty holders on the piece.”
You can hear more from the artist in his September 29th radio interview with Austin-based station, Texas Standard.