GALVESTON, Texas — Every six weeks or so, Renee Rodriguez takes time to sit in front of a small space on the wall at Galveston’s Tremont Gallery.

The Galveston County Daily News (http://bit.ly/2bMyKmG ) reports before every ArtWalk, a free event that celebrates local artists and takes place in commercial galleries, nonprofit art spaces, and what are called “other walls,” restaurants and retail stores around the island, Rodriguez puts up a new exhibit.

Her space usually consists of five to eight photos, but her most recent exhibit is 53 pieces, which celebrate the lives of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

The photos are colorful, strong images, each column representing one color in the rainbow, a symbol of the LGBT community.

“I wanted a celebration,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted colorful, happy — I wanted life.”

Rodriguez doesn’t force her art or her message, but the shooting in June weighed on her heart.

“It was the loss of life; the horrendous act of innocent life taken when these humans were celebrating life,” Rodriguez said. “Coming from the community myself, at any given moment that could’ve been me. It was me in Dallas and Houston, just going to celebrate a good week at work, releasing stress or dancing. For them to never walk out .”

There were 372 mass shootings in the United States last year, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker. That’s more than one mass shooting a day, which is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people. It seems every day there’s a new tragedy, domestic and abroad.

“There’s a cause every week, every day,” Rodriguez said. “They’re all tragedies, one doesn’t surpass the others.”

But ever since same-sex marriage was granted nationwide by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, members of the LGBT community have been celebrating their right to love. It was that word, love, that spoke to Rodriguez.

“We’re living in a moment in our country where awareness is critical,” she said. “I feel a responsibility because I have creativity that’s endless and unconditional.”

There’s more to her exhibit than photography, though. Arguably the most eye-catching piece is a long plank of black wood with colorful nails.

“I found the oldest, ugliest piece of wood I could to represent how broken I felt when the news hit,” Rodriguez said.

She sanded it by hand and painted each of the 49 nails that are affixed to the board in a straight line, representing unity and oneness with those killed.

“I’m just presenting what’s in my heart,” she said.

When she was asked whether she considered traveling with the show, Rodriguez said she hadn’t thought about it. She made a phone call to a friend in the art world to discuss the possibility.

“She told me, ‘When tragedy happens, the media hypes it, it’s 24/7 until the another tragedy comes, and then we shift. It’s the artists that keep the story going,'” Rodriguez said. “I want it to go wherever people will accept it.”

“Viva Pulse” is showing at the Tremont Gallery through Aug. 31, when Rodriguez will take the show down to start building another.

“I start right where I’ve been,” she said of her next show, which will be up through the Oct. 8 ArtWalk event, in which she will be the featured artist. “Every day there’s something new to share, new to see, new to feel. It’s always spontaneous. I don’t like the art to feel forced.”

The Tremont Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. ArtWalk will be held Saturday.


Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Galveston County Daily News