U.S.-Mexico border imagery shines in ‘Icons & Symbols of the Borderland’ exhibit

Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the "Icons & Symbols of the Borderland" exhibit.
Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland” exhibit. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

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.

The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela.
The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

“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.

Travel to Latin America with Austin’s Mexic-Arte, Cine Las Americas

Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City is also known as La Casa Azul or The Blue House. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Stepping into Mexico City’s Alameda Central Park with its majestic fountains, impromptu performance art shows and canoodling couples, you can feel the energy of the megalopolis and its cultural richness. Often romanticized in songs or featured in artwork such as the renowned Diego Rivera mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park,” the cultural hotspot also leads to the prominent Palace of Fine Arts, where Rivera recreated the mural famously destroyed at the Rockefeller Center.

In an effort to explore Latin America’s cultural art scene with an Austin lens, the local Mexic-Arte Museum has been leading art tours in the Mexican capital city on and off since 1996. It’s been offering these experiences more regularly since 2010, when Mexico celebrated its bicentennial.

An upcoming trip on June 22-27 offers Austinties the chance to understand the complexities of Mexican art and culture under the guidance of art expert and Mexic-Arte Museum founding director Sylvia Orozco.

Participants will visit Mexico City’s iconic cultural heritage sites including the expansive National Museum of Anthropology, which is often described as one of Mexico’s most important museums for its comprehensive collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts. Visiting the bellybutton of the city, the Zócalo main square, sheds light into the inner workings of the country’s past and present. And sights such as Frida Kahlo’s brilliant blue childhood home and bohemian Coyoacán neighborhood give new meaning to the artist’s work.

The trip, which depending on airfare ranges from $2,600 to $3,200, includes a curated itinerary of more art-centric sights. Visit mexic-artemuseumevents.org for more details.

Keep an eye out for more opportunities for Latin American travel with Austin cultural institutions that offer unique perspectives. In October, Austinites can join Cine Las Americas on a cinema-focused trip to Cuba for a week. Film enthusiasts can check out sites featured in movies such as “Our Man in Havana,” “Soy Cuba,” and “Fresa y Chocolate.”

More information about that Oct. 22-29 trip can be found on jbjourneys.com.