Pulse Nightclub victims honored with photo exhibit at Texas State Capitol – OutSmart Magazine

Renee Rodriguez holding a piece from her tribute piece Pulse (photo by Alex Rosa for OutSmart magazine).

FIne-art photographer Renee Rodriguez was having breakfast on the morning of June 12, 2016, when a news bulletin crossed the television screen of her tiny Galveston apartment. The gruesome report was the first account of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.

As details unfolded, Rodriguez learned that Pulse was an LGBTQ dance club popular with the young Latinx community. There were over 300 people when an armed man entered the facility. He murdered 49 people and injured 53 others.

Rodriguez was speechless. The can of Coke in his hand slipped from his fingers and hit the floor with a thud. Then she went into shock.

“The horrific act of killing innocent lives, while celebrating life, devastated me,” recalls Rodriguez, a Latinx lesbian. “It could have been me cheering and dancing. The people killed that night would never dance again. I knew I had to do something for these blessed lost souls.

Rodriguez then started working on Long live the impulse, a work of art that paid tribute to the 49 lives lost. She collected 49 of her photographs – one photo for each murder victim – which expressed different aspects of the human spirit. The collection was exhibited for the first time at the Tremont Gallery in Galveston.

Long live the impulse moved people, ”Rodriguez says. “Some were even standing there and crying. Afterwards, I no longer had a choice. I knew I was destined to pay more homage to those lost lives, ”she explains.

Renee Rodriguez’s Viva Pulse exhibition at the Tremont Gallery in 2016 (courtesy photo)

In 2017, Rodriguez created Pulsation, his second exhibition created for the first anniversary of the tragedy. In 2018, she produced a tribute photo album titled LOVE Redeemer dedicated to the memory of the victims. It was featured during the Houston FotoFest biennial portfolio review. The collection was so well received that Rodriguez was invited to show it at an event at the Museum of Art of the Americas in Washington, DC.

In honor of the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, Rodriguez will showcase a collection of his Pulse tribute photos at the Texas State Capitol in Austin this month. Rodriguez’s Pulse / 49: A Remembrance from the Texas exhibit will feature five Latino artists and will hang on the second level, the rotunda, where everyone is welcome to view it.

Lorena Fernandez

Lorena Fernandez is a Houston-based Latina artist who holds a PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy and Coaching. She was a natural fit for the Pulse / 49 exhibit. “My heart is broken by the senseless gun violence, the discrimination against our LGBT community and the discrimination against blacks and browns that is rampant in America today. When Renée invited me to participate in this tribute, I saw it as a spiritual opportunity to offer my art to our suffering human hearts, ”said Fernandez.

Shawna Stroup Ticket

Shawna Stroup Billet is a remarkable multimedia artist who finds her inspiration in nature and culture, which she then expresses through organic shapes, vivid colors and dramatic lines. She had very personal reasons for expressing the feelings of grief and renewal in the community. “For me, this opportunity offered a cure during the year of COVID. I was dealing with the loss of close friends and family. I understood the grieving process that families, partners, spouses and friends have endured in the five years since Pulse, and I wanted to help provide loved ones with a sense of peace and healing through my art, ”she explains.

Nanette Sandoval

Nanette Sandoval is a passionate illustrator and artist, and a self-identified Mexican-American Houstonian. “I’m a Latin lesbian with a partner and a son, so the tragedy really hit me. I was inspired to create a piece of art for the Pulse / 49 show. Each lost soul is represented by a ray of color in the rainbow, reminding us that each one continues to shine brightly and is not forgotten, ”she said.

Mitch D’Arte

Mitch D’arte is a Latino art teacher and award-winning artist whose powerful work is a striking addition to the show. Her participation was perfect, as she also saw herself in the victims. “I’m linked to loss through my ancestry – I’m a Latina lesbian too. In our culture, a hummingbird is a messenger between two worlds, so I chose the hummingbird as my messenger [sent by] those who passed by to speak to those they left behind. I created Ve y diles que estoy bien (Go tell them I’m fine) for the show. It is painted on a transparent canvas, representing a veil that the viewer can see through the other side of two worlds, ”says D’arte.

Rodriguez says she’s very happy with the way Pulse / 49 is presenting itself. “I’m just happy to be able to be creative and share my passion for those who are no longer there. I feel that this is part of my duty, not only as an artist, but as a human. Art is essential to all life, and photography is essential to mine, ”she concludes, her eyes sparkling.

What: Pulse / 49: A souvenir from the Texas exhibition
When: June 11-17
Or: Second-level rotunda at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, 1100 Congress Ave.
Info: instagram.com/pulse49txrem/

This article appears in the May 2021 issue of OutSmart magazine.

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