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“Linking the legacies”: Artist honors moms’ influences through exhibit at TXST

Carlene Ottah
Journalism sophomore Breanna Lopez looks at a large-scale installation of plastic cemetery flowers on the wall, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, at the “The Unsettlements: Moms” exhibition at Texas State Galleries.

At the Texas State Galleries, a series of objects are found lying on the floor, visual points on the walls and embroidered pieces hanging from the ceiling. To its artist, it unweaves the story of their ancestry and the different ideas at play.

JD Pluecker, artist, continues their project with the second iteration of “The Unsettlements: Moms,” analyzing the lives and legacies of Claire Pluecker, their birth mom, and Linda Anderson, their adopted mom, while thinking about ancestry, belonging, queerness, identity and white supremacy.

In their teens and early 20s, Anderson supported JD, a queer and transgender person, when their family could not. Over time, they and their parents have had a close relationship and are grateful to Anderson for providing what JD needed.

“A lot of the work is really to honor those bonds and to think with both mothers about what it means to fight, what it means to make choices, what it means to live, what it means to support one another,” JD said.

The exhibition blends Claire’s and Anderson’s lives with insight into their pasts. Some of the sketches are also physical installations in the room, such as the blue satin clouds and the shape on the wall outlined with plastic cemetery flowers. At the bottom lies a container representing the burial site of one of JD’s oppressive ancestors.

“I made that shape on the wall out of these cemetery flowers,” JD said. “The plastic cemetery flowers are kind of linking the legacies of this oppressive ancestor with Linda, to kind of show the ways that I like to see shows up in my own family, and then also the ways that perhaps we can find energetic ways to deal with those legacies.”

“The Unsettlements” project began in 2018, describing various mediums delving into Texas’ past and present. It is grounded in sites of memory, violence, silence and ancestry regarding the eight generations of their family who lived in Texas for two centuries and how multiple legacies pass down through generations.

Margo Handwerker, Texas State Galleries director, invited JD a few years ago after discovering their work through a colleague who saw “The Unsettlements: Dad.” The two of them talked about doing a project at the gallery about JD’s ancestry in the region and worked through multiple ideas.

“A lot of [the ideas from our field trips together in the region] does come out in the work because a lot of what JD does is pull objects from these sites that they visit that relate to their family’s history,” Handwerker said.

Over the summer, JD traveled between San Marcos and Houston, finishing up works and bringing them back for installation. Priscilla Salgado, gallery monitor, observed the process often and got to see JD as a person.

“Being able to see an LGBTQ person and go into their space and talk, have a conversation about all these things that I’m not very familiar with — I think it opened up my curiosity a lot more to understand the principle that everyone comes from different places,” Salgado said.

The exhibition will be on campus until Nov. 7. JD said it is essential for students to hold up other ways of being in the changing state of Texas. For those in art programs, JD hopes the exhibition will give them a sense of freedom in what they create.

“You don’t necessarily have to privilege the art world,” JD said. “You can make things for the people that you love, and those engagements can be made for other people.”

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