Marcel Pardo Ariza: Orquídeas

This fall, Artist in Residence Marcel Pardo Ariza turns 500 Capp Street into a welcoming hub for the trans community with an installation that invites intergenerational stories and a series of dinners, drag shows, and more.

Installation on view: October 19, 2023 – February 17, 2024

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Starting October 19, 500 Capp Street in San Francisco is reimagined as artist and curator Marcel Pardo Ariza turns David Ireland’s historic home into an inviting and inclusive space for the Mission District’s queer and trans community. The result of a summer artist residency, Ariza’s project, Orquídeas, includes an installation and a series of public programs focused on trans joy, community stories, and artistic resilience.

“I wanted to invite the energy of the community I am part of into the space,” says Ariza. “Trans folks and drag performers have not been part of the history of 500 Capp Street, but lots of queer and trans people of color have done a lot of organizing in the neighborhood for decades, and I wanted to invite them to take up space in the House and reflect on all of that history. This installation is an experiment to make the 500 Capp Street Garage a type of ever-evolving container. There really aren’t many trans archives, so Orquídeas is an open invitation to write some of our own stories, in our own way.”

The multifaceted project includes the site-specific installation Memoria Trans SF, a social sculpture for dialog and conversations, with a generative collection of oral, archival, and visual stories of trans joy developed in collaboration with writer Julián Delgado Lopera and in collaboration with El/La Para Translatinas. The neon orange space, with photographs, flyers, jewelry, neon, and other ephemera, celebrates a number of trans ancestors and elders in the Mission and beyond, including transgender rights activist and artist Donna Personna; poet, writer, and filmmaker Tina Valentin Aguirre; and community activist Ms. Billie Cooper, who ran for District 6 Supervisor in 2022. Over several months this summer, Ariza met with over 25 members of the community, opening the doors of 500 Capp Street for shared meals and conversation. Memoria Trans SF brings the energy of these stories into one place and creates a hub for visitors to share their own stories and personal archives.

Two drag make up workshops for the public are scheduled—one with Grace Towers on October 25, and the other with Mudd the Two Spirit on November 8. On November 17, Ariza celebrates the legendary Saturday night drag show, Las AtreDivas, started by Adela Vazquez in the 1980s at Esta Noche, the city’s first Latino bar for the LGBTQ+ community, now closed since 2014. The event at 500 Capp Street will be a night of drag performance, all in Spanish, emceed by Grace Towers. 

Café Porno will be a pop up gathering developed with artist and chef Salimatu Amabebe. A dessert evening with drinks on December 1, open to the public, will benefit sex workers in the Mission District. Other invitation-only dinner events for the community, such as a Trans Leaders Dinner and Black Feast, will take place throughout October, November and December as well.

Orquídeas, Ariza reflects, is a more experimental approach to their art practice. “The work is not about me as a maker or director,” they say. “It is about contribution, conversations, community, and trust. I’m, myself, learning so much about the incredible multiplicity within my community. It makes me think of the beauty and diversity of orchids and also the specificity of care for both.”

“I’m so proud of the work we have cultivated with Marcel Pardo Ariza,” says Lian Ladia, Curator, Exhibitions and Programs, 500 Capp Street. “We have been working together since 2021, and each step of their exploration has contributed to the backbone of this project. Slow and lasting community engagement for multiple voices is a priority of 500 Capp Street. We are happy to be an incubator of storytelling for the trans community of the Mission District, with El/La Para Translatinas as a key collaborator as well.”

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Marcel Pardo Ariza (b. Bogotá, Colombia) is a trans, nonbinary visual artist, curator, and cultural worker whose work explores the relationship of representation, intergenerational kinship, and queerness through constructed photographs and site-specific installations. Through staging and collaboration, Ariza deploys sets as a site of possibility for (re)building a story and materializing alternative and attainable present and future narratives. Ariza enjoys playing with the arbitrary rigidity that is often present in the photographic medium and the work is invested in creating long-term interdisciplinary collaborations and opportunities that are nonhierarchical and equitable. Marcel is the current recipient of the SECA Art Award.

Orquídeas will not be possible without the support of Kenneth Rainin Open Spaces Program and The Zellerbach Family Foundation, with additional support from Tania Houtzager, The Transgender District and Bomo Beauty.