Justin Boyd is a San Antonio-based multimedia artist whose installations employ sculpture, video, light, and sound to produced layered narratives that draw upon history, literature, folklore, and other shared cultural experiences to explore aspects of Americana and what it means to participate in the collective experience of being American-a key aspect of which is the importance of home. For his Window Works exhibition, he continues to explore shared identity in a locally focused practice. Beginning with the familiar cacophonous calls of a common bird found in his hometown, he created a corridor of sound composed of San Antonio’s urban white noise: grackle calls and traffic.
For the installation, Boyd mounted speakers to Artpace’s Main Avenue façade and the trees that line its sidewalk. While the sounds emitting from the branches are unmediated recordings from nearby areas, the same audio emanating from the building is filtered to slightly alter the tones and textures. During the day, the speakers play the raucous calls of the ubiquitous grackle-often considered a nuisance-whose physical description inspires the title of Boyd’s exhibition, It Is a Natural Black, Sprinkled With Cosmic Iridescence. At night, the bird noise mingles with recordings of city activities such as buses and car horns, transposing the ambient sounds of busy, bustling streets onto Main Avenue, a primarily commercial downtown thoroughfare that becomes quiet in the evenings.
Extending this exploration of how we participate in and alter the sonic environments that surround us, Boyd has covered the sidewalk in front of the Window Works display with chalk patterns resembling radiating sound waves-the lines inspired by Artpace’s trees and the uneven edges of the sidewalk surrounding them. As pedestrians walk over the work, they track the chalk dust beyond the parameters of the installation. Like sound, the chalk fades over time as it dissipates and spreads throughout the city, filling the landscape with traces of its sonic energy.