Visitors to the art gallery in the Bayou Building will be transported to life along the Rio Grande in an exhibit full of vibrancy and rich colors.
Leslie Plaza Johnson and Van Edwards, both adjunct instructors of photography, in collaboration, present Along the Rio Grande: A New World Becoming. The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 5, tells a story through photographs and music of a geographical divide that has become anything but a cultural divide.
“We are tied to Mexico geographically, historically, culturally and economically, so how could you ignore it?” Edwards said. “So what’s happening along the border is this confluence of cultures. It’s amazing and it’s neither Mexico or the United States.”
Edwards and Johnson took many trips down to the border for two to three days at a time. Their trips were filled with tales, from drunk cowboys trying to take Johnson home with them, to the quiet story of meeting a young military man and woman working in collaboration with border patrol watching a shallow part of the river. Edwards and Johnson learned the soldiers were shipping off to Iraq in a few weeks.
Edwards and Johnson plan to use the photographs to compile a multimedia presentation with poetry, stories, recipes and music highlighting the region. They hope their work will bring this region to life through multiple mediums and showcase their perspective that we as people should build bridges, not fences.
“We’re trying to defy labels because to say that you’re Mexican to people on the border, it really doesn’t mean anything but a geographical assignation,” Johnson said. “People that are of Mexican heritage live on the Texas side and feel very American and some, in fact, don’t even speak Spanish. So it becomes a moot point as to what side of the border I am standing on when I look at these photographs.”
Nick DeVries, gallery director and professor of art, likes to showcase work from UHCL connected artists in the gallery, whether it is alumni, faculty or students. After witnessing Edwards and Johnson’s work in another gallery, DeVries invited the two adjunct professors to show their work. “When I saw the exhibition at TAACCL, I was really impressed with how they work together, how they collaborate together on projects,” DeVries said. “This particular project is such a topical one. It calls attention to what goes on in that particular geographical location which becomes very blended between Mexico and the United States.”
Every photograph tells a story and Edwards and Johnson encourage everyone to go down to the border to gain their own perspective of the region. The way of life, the colors and the culture all come alive in the exhibit.
“The first thing that strikes you is the bright colors and vibrancy,” said Karen Fiscus, assistant gallery director. “It speaks worlds of the people who enjoy life and don’t care what other people think.”
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