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SA Airport Features Tin Woman Exhibit: A Visual Testimony

By Leroy Adams
Culture Travels

Here’s something you might not expect to hear: I absolutely love airports. 

You’re probably thinking, “Leroy! Long lines, delays, impatient crowds, crowded bars, and TSA!

Yes, amidst the shoulder-bumping crowds and hangry TSA officials, many airports today feature gems of cultural and artistic expression that can transport ideas and minds. They’re like vibrant canvases, showcasing an eclectic mix of art and cultural treasures, often reflecting their city’s unique heartbeat and vibes. Imagine wandering through the Atlanta airport and stumbling upon a Zimbabwean sculpture exhibit. Each piece, a symphony in stone, tells a story of heritage and craftsmanship. Or picture Qatar’s ‘Lamp Bear,’ a massive thought-provoking installation fusing color and form, turning an airport corner into a space of wonder.

Airports have become a destination in and of themselves, with mini art exhibits connecting travelers to local talent and cultural gifts from other countries or providing an opportunity to experience exhibits shared by local art galleries they might have missed during their visit.

Located on the East side of San Antonio, The Eye of The Beholder Art Gallery exposes visitors to paintings, sculptures, and wearable art from local artists or nearby cities like Dallas, Texas, or countries as far as Nigeria. The gallery’s founder, Maria Williams, is not shy about her determination to have as many people as possible experience the work of these fantastic artists, which is why we were excited to receive an invitation from Maria to attend the reveal of Deidre Hardin, a.k.a The Tin Woman’s exhibit in the San Antonio International Airport. 

Be sure to arrive at the airport early during your next trip. Once you get there, head to the Southwest Airlines check-in desk and turn around. Hardin’s “Visual Testimony” is a mesmerizing collection where each copper-based sculpture is a silent yet powerful narrator of her health journey. The metal twists and turns, capturing the resilience and grace of a life lived with courage. Hardin, a Lupus survivor, says, “From her pain came her purpose.” When she was diagnosed with Lupus, Hardin researched natural remedies, as opposed to pills and topical steroids, for pain relief. She learned that untreated copper benefits circulatory and nerve cell health naturally. 

Her creative spirit eventually took over, guiding her to her purpose. First, she began creating rings and bracelets (you can see this wearable art at the Eye of The Beholder gallery) to keep her hands malleable to continue creating art as a form of self-prescribed therapy. 

Hardin’s artistic evolution over two decades is a story of triumphs. Her latest creations are a visual feast for travelers passing by – imagine armor adorned with colorful fabric, delicate pearls, and soft feathers, all harmonizing with her signature copper design style. Her beloved figure sculptures are not just mere forms but potent narratives carved in metal and emotion. Each figure, a testament to her journey, is meticulously crafted with copper, symbolizing her strength and resilience. The copper isn’t just applied; it’s intentionally placed over their Black skin, highlighting specific body parts that mirror the struggles and triumphs of her journey with Lupus. 

I asked Hardin what message she hopes travelers walk away with after experiencing her work:

“It’s the empowerment of taking back what we may have lost, mentally or physically. The copper design strands represent a moment in my life journey,” Hardin said. “Each piece has spirals, twists, and turns because nothing is always a straight line in living.”

With an impressive community of artists to choose from, we asked Maria Williams of The Eye of The Beholder Art Gallery what specific elements of Hardin’s work influenced her decision to feature it at the airport: 

“Deidre [Hardin] has works that speak of her health journey and touches the masses with understanding,” Williams added. “The way she sculpts her pieces, the movement of the copper, there’s an elegance in the flow. Yes, it’s metal, but she gives it softer intricacies, even how she molds with the clay she uses. Why Deidre? It IS her time.”

Matthew Evans, the special projects manager for the San Antonio Airport, oversees the installation of exhibits. He recently shared how creating a space for local artists aligns with the airport’s goal to create a “sense of place” for visitors:

“When local artists share their work through exhibits at the airport, they infuse our community’s identity into the hearts of all those who bear witness,” Evans said. “Generally, art at the airport provides an aesthetic enhancement to what is otherwise a fairly sterile (and occasionally stressful) environment. Beyond that, the airport as a gallery space offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for artists and audiences alike to discover and engage with one another.”

So, on your next airport adventure, immerse yourself in Hardin’s “Visual Testimony.” It’s more than an art display; it’s a story about a personal journey that uplifts and inspires, elevating your spirit even before your flight takes off.

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