17 Jan Selena Forever/Siempre Selena Debuts at McNay Museum!
Selena fans rejoice! The McNay Art Museum is paying tribute to 90s icon, singer, designer, and Texas legend—Selena Quintanilla-Pérez—in its latest photography installation Selena Forever/Siempre Selena, open from January 15. The presentation features five photographs (three large-scale) by San Antonio photographer John Dyer, and is presented in conjunction with Fashion Nirvana: Runway to Everyday, opening January 30.
John Dyer, American born 1947. Selena, 1992. Archival ink on paper. Collection of the artist.
The exhibit features photos taken by Dyer in two separate occasions, in 1992 when Selena was just starting to make a name for herself, and later on in 1995, just months before her tragic murder at the age of 23. The photographer notes the difference in the two occasions he had the pleasure of working with the Tejano singer. During the first photoshoot, for a feature in Más Magazine, he was taken aback by her liveliness, Dyer said “Selena’s quick smile, infectious laugh, and unending energy made her a pleasure to work with.” During the presentation, he stated, “The world was before her, everything was possible.” He noted the difference when he had the opportunity to work with her a second time, in 1995, for Texas Monthly Magazine, as she had just finished shooting television commercials for a corporate sponsor; Dyer described her as subdued and pensive, “a far cry from the ebullient excited young singer I’d photographed three years earlier.” By this point, she achieved incredible fame and transcended the boundaries of the Texas music scene. She won a Grammy Award, performed for sold-out crowds at the Houston Astrodome, opened two namesake fashion boutiques—one in Corpus Christi and one in San Antonio—and began work on her crossover album, Dreaming of You, which would garner a second Grammy nomination.It was this particular photoshoot that brought us the iconic image of Selena at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, TX.
John Dyer, photographer.
Dyer fondly remembers her as very fun to work with, “Oh, let me try this hat on! What about this top?! Let’s try some pearls!” as Selena would pull looks from her trunk that she carried with her to the photo studio in her red hatchback back in ’92. Some of the selected photos for the exhibit are never before seen or published; with them he wants the audience to see “her spirit, her joy of being alive, her youth and excitement. There’s something about what she had that affects so many people for so many years, emotionally.” The five selected photographs show her magnetism, charisma and, of course, her style evolution from a young budding singer to an award winning, international artist.
After the presentation, we sat with the exhibit curator, Kate Carey, Head of Education for McNay Museum, to get more insight on the iconic late singer’s influence.
SLTV: We’re seeing the 90’s making a huge comeback, as we’re evidently getting a look into the fashions with your upcoming exhibit, Fashion Nirvana. With Selena, it seems like it never really left. We have the Como la Flor Festival celebrating her annually in Corpus Christi, people still dress like her, even celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Demi Lovato have dressed up like her in the last couple of years. Why do you think that Selena’s style is so transcendental?
KC: Well, one the things about Selena is that she was the architect of of her own image and of her own style. Often, fabricating some of the things that she wore. So, part of me thinks that reads as very authentic to lots of people. To be able to see somebody and even reach, as you mentioned, other style icons, that has a lot to say about what their own image is. When someone is not necessarily working with a celebrity stylist, or might not polish or refine or even has the chance to change their image, I think this is something that we can take away from Selena. The other thing involved in the design and fabrication of what she wore, I think there’s something in the 90’s in particular that has to do with a DIY setting. You see a lot of sequins, a lot of appliquè, you see glitz, but you also see the self fabrication. I think we’re revisiting that now because that brand of fashion appeals to a lot of people. There is just so must creativity!
SLTV: I did not grow up listening to Tejano music, growing up between NYC and Puerto Rico, but when Selena blew up, and crossed those borders and even oceans, that’s when I was exposed to this genre. I feel like her style was a huge part of her appeal to girls like me and my friends. We we are all about the Bidi Bidi Bon Bon! Why do you think that even though she was a big Tejano star she was able to cross-over?
KC: When she released her cross-over album, Dreaming of You, that was probably my introduction to her and those were the songs that I sang in High School! But even so, I’ve found Selena fans across generations. I’ve met fans who are older than me, younger than me, and from all different backgrounds. Her music speaks to different generations, different backgrounds and different cultural experiences, and is still very powerful today. I think there are artists that serve as unifiers and Selena was definitely able to do that, even today.
SLTV: That is so true! What do you think Selena’s style would be like today, if she were still with us?
KC: Oh my gosh! Well she would be at the cutting edge of fashion! (laughs) Things that stand out about her looks were a lot of bold patterns and a lot of sparkle, and I don’t know if that was her as a performer or her genuine personal style. I think that bold patterns and bright colors would have probably been consistent with her image and even on trend, right now.
The installation opened January 15 in the Octagon and will be on view through July 5, 2020. It is included with General Admission to the Museum, and is presented in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition Fashion Nirvana: Runway to Everyday, opening January 30.