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Arts & Culture

Questions for Franco Mondini-Ruiz: An interview by artist Gary Sweeney

Photo: Courtesy Gary Sweeney, License: N/A

Courtesy Gary Sweeney

Everyone’s a critic at Franco’s: The artist, Gary Sweeney and some painting-trampling goats at Mondini-Ruiz’ West Side home

GALLERY: The Artwork of Franco Mondini-Ruiz

Ten minutes into my conversation with San Antonio art star Franco Mondini-Ruiz, it became obvious that my little one-page interview in the Current would not be able to hold Franco’s oversized personality. The story of how his parents met could be an entire article in itself.

During our two-hour talk, Franco took the conversation and ran with it, covering such diverse subjects as Italian history, fashion, Linda Pace’s influence and San Antonio’s art world during the 1980s. His observations were insightful, outrageous, reflective, hilarious, bitchy—often within a single sentence.

In a nutshell: born and raised in Boerne, became a high-powered attorney, burned out on the lawyer life, began making art, came out, became a fabulous artist and party host.

His art successes have been truly impressive. He was juried into the Whitney Biennial of American Art (the art world’s version of the All-Star Game), after which he was awarded the very prestigious Rome Prize. He published a beautiful art book, High Pink: Tex-Mex Fairy Tales. Last year, he presented a solo show at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and is showing in Santa Fe with fellow San Antonian Justin Parr this month. His work also resides in important national and international collections too numerous to mention.

As I said, someone needs to write a book.

Ed. note: Sweeney and Mondini-Ruiz decided to have some fun with the pictured photo-op and set it up inside Mondini-Ruiz’ onsite goat pen. No sooner had they arranged several works by the artist than one opinionated billy goat headbutted the largest work, ripping it apart. This being Mondini-Ruiz’ world, the photo shoot went on as if this were a totally normal occurance. They simply turned the painting around (to protect its identity!) and kept on shooting.

What was it like growing up in Boerne in the ’60s?
Pre-Wal-Mart, Boerne was a cedar-scented, little German town of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Old buildings, new money, dragging Main and the occasional transvestite horse-trainer couple who wore heavy Tammy Faye Bakker makeup and matching Patsy Cline drag when they ventured into town!

What was it like growing up gay and Hispanic in San Antonio?
It was a cautious, precarious existence with moments of relief when some new kid “gayer” or “Hispanicer” moved into town.

What was your first experience in art?
Third-grade (1969) Weekly Reader, [which] came from someplace far weirder than Boerne. One week, in the middle of a dusty drought, the publication had a tiny story with a tiny picture showing a Warhol opening. The scene was hotly lit and futuristic, stark white and weirdo-ish and glamorous and scary and arty and a sanctuary. I would from that day journey forward.

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