When I close my eyes and think of the Texas borderlands, my home, I see snapshots of the symbols I’ve carried throughout my life — the elaborate images on a soft San Marcos blanket or the street vendor peddling garapiñadas — the bright red sugar-coated peanuts — on the international bridge.
The borderlands, the fluid place between two giant worlds, inform everything about my identity. Often, it’s the icons and symbols of a place you connect with that can offer glimpses into your own life.
The Mexic-Arte Museum’s latest exhibit, “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland,” shines a light on the cultural imagery of the U.S.-Mexico border. Sometimes it’s the landscape of the area that resonates the most in the artwork; other times it’s the food culture or religious iconography.
“In an age where visual representations are fundamental to communication and lifestyle, icons and symbols are the key to ethical precepts, inspirations and beliefs,” guest curator Diana Molina, director of the Juntos Art Association in El Paso, said in a written statement. “They provide a framework for ideals, emotions, philosophy and, ultimately, patterns of behavior.”
The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 13 in the museum’s main gallery, includes the work of more than 20 Juntos Art Association artists. A poignant photo collage by Molina examines the wall that already exists in different border communities from Texas to California. A painting by Antonio Castro titled “Rebirth” depicts an agave growing out of dry, cracked ground in Ciudad Juárez. Agaves, which can survive in the harshest of conditions, bloom after many years. It begins to die after a giant, flowering stalk grows from its center, but it leaves behind seeds for new life. In Castro’s painting, the agave sits in the middle of a desolate road peppered with bullet casings. Instead of a flowering stalk, a newborn baby offers a symbol of another kind of new life.
Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students and $1 for children 12 and younger. Visit the Mexic-Arte Museum for free every Sunday. The museum, at 419 Congress Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Visitors can also catch an exhibit of Day of the Dead altars through Nov. 13 in the adjacent annex gallery. Keep an eye out for our upcoming story on each of the elaborate altars this year.