Celebrating Houston's MasterMinds

We pass on a bit of luck to the recipients of our first creativity awards

According to the foundation's Web site (www.fodicefoundation.org): "Each year, we will offer up to six artists concurrent residencies for up to two months, for an estimated total of 24 artists per year. These visiting artists will have the opportunity to focus on their own work but will become integral parts of a very depressed community where the arts are currently neglected."

In addition to six artist studios, the Fodice compound will include housing, a fully equipped workshop, kitchen facilities, offices, a gallery space and a performance space, as well as permanent installations. The foundation also plans to have annual open house events similar to the Chinati Foundation. Call it "Marfa East."

Although the couple's goal is to have it up and running in three years, they're thinking five is a more realistic timetable. They've been fund-raising constantly and dedicating sales of their own artwork to the cause — even offering it up for free as a bonus for donating. They've also produced a short film, No Paved Roads, to promote the project. "Since we decided to do this, every show we've done is about Fodice," says Medrano.

Three hundred students apply to the Broadcast Academy at Hightower High School each year. Only 45 are accepted.
Daniel Kramer
Three hundred students apply to the Broadcast Academy at Hightower High School each year. Only 45 are accepted.
Instructor Ted Irving says many college programs can't compete with Hightower's Broadcast Academy.
Daniel Kramer
Instructor Ted Irving says many college programs can't compete with Hightower's Broadcast Academy.

For both, the project represents a homecoming. For Anderson, the journey is literal. But for Medrano, it's a return to an adolescence that was both suppressive and nurturing. "I was a weird-ass kid," he admits. "I grew up weird; the whole school thing was weird. I didn't read a whole lot. I read biographies on presidents. Murderers and presidents and shit like that." Luckily, Medrano received mentorship from a teacher who recognized his talent and encouraged him. He developed a signature style and narrative quality in his artwork that seems elementally concerned with one subject. "History," he says. "I'm a big history person. I have a huge fascination with artifacts." But don't ask him to explain much further. "People ask me, 'Hey man, why do you do that art? Why does that art look like that?' I tell them, 'Man, I don't even know how to work my own stereo in my own studio, so how are you going to ask me what that art is about? Only the good Lord knows what that shit's about.'"

Much of Medrano's work feels methodically aged, but it doesn't belong to any particular historical era. His paintings sometimes feature hairless, nude humans and contain a mechanical element or a depiction of an apparatus that is merged with human elements. At times his sculptures resemble elaborate wooden frames that incorporate exaggerated puppets, mechanisms, electronic devices and lighting elements. The wood is usually darkly stained and coated with bright-colored paint, which Medrano scrapes and sands away, creating a kind of antique patina. Anderson's black-and-white photographs often feature prominently as backgrounds as well as main subjects.

While Anderson has her own business doing portraiture-for-hire, most of the couple's output is collaborative, and it started only two months after they met. Medrano was working on a wooden sculpture, and he had the idea to run strips of negative through a viewfinder and incorporate it into the piece. He asked Anderson for some general scraps. Instead, Anderson handed him negatives of photos the couple had taken together, of the time they'd spent together since they'd met. It transformed the artwork into a personal document — an omen of their creative relationship.

"Katy brings home what she's been working on," says Medrano. "I hang out with it and start drawing on it. Like Daffy Duck and the mustache. It's really more than that; that's just how I explain it. It's taking something and turning it into something else."

Some collectors wish it wasn't always "something else," though. They wish the couple would pick a medium and stick with it. But Medrano says tough luck. "We have a split audience. Fifty percent of the people who collect our stuff tell me, 'Why do you do the sculpture? Why don't you just keep painting?' and the other half say, 'Why do you keep painting?' Jimi Hendrix only set his guitar on fire once, even though people kept asking him to set it on fire. I don't want to do the same thing over and over again."

For Anderson, the Fodice School represents her creative birthplace, although the camera was always around. When she was four, her house burned down. To make up for lost photos, Anderson's mother started snapping and documenting everything, especially Katy. Then when she was 11, it all burned again. "At 11, I was old enough to be heartbroken that all of our stuff that we had collected was lost. That's when I really started taking the camera with me, and it was important to me to start my own collection of memories and ­photographs."

Her weapon was no Brownie or Polaroid, though. "It was an expensive camera; it was a Minolta. My mom trusted me with it, and if something broke it wasn't a big deal. I don't know if there was ever a point when I thought, 'This is what I'm going to do'; it's just something I've always done and continue to do. Once I found the school, that's when I started going there and shooting."

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