A binational art exhibition comprised of paintings, drawings, photographs and videos depicting the landscape, wildlife, people and culture of Ambos Nogales and other border regions received its first public viewing last Saturday night.

The exhibition, titled “Building Puentes Across Naciones,” aims to promote a positive conversation about life on the border, said U.S. Consul Christopher Teal during an opening ceremony at the Museo de Arte de Nogales, Sonora that was hosted by the U.S. Consulate.

“There’s such a lively arts community on both sides of the border and I’d always seen there were great activities on the Sonoran side and great activities on the Arizona side, but there weren’t enough opportunities for artists on both sides to get together and have a kind of combined showing,” he said. “And so really the idea was to get all these various artists together, and since we were doing that with both Sonoran and Arizonan artists, I thought it would be interesting to get people’s interpretations on what the border means to them.

“There’s always a lot of polemic and discussion about the border but you can see from the works of art that are here, there’s a great variety of perspectives. And that’s exactly what we had hoped we could get, different views about nature and wildlife and just people’s everyday life,” he added.

In total, Teal said, 52 artists from both sides of the border – from as far north as Tucson and as far south as Hermosillo – contributed one or more pieces to the show, which will be on display at the museum through the end of July. In fact, there was so much interest from the artist community that organizers were unable to display all of the artwork submitted for the show because there wasn’t enough space, he said.

Some of the pieces that were included were created specifically for the exhibition, while others were already finished products that fit the theme of the show.

Sergio Peralta of Nogales, Sonora, who said he’s been painting for roughly 15 years, had three paintings on display: “Puerta de Mexico,” “La Frontera” and “Los Arcos,” which depict the border crossing structure in downtown Nogales. 

Another local artist, Janneth Abitia, said she spent close to 60 hours working on her mixed media piece titled “De las cosas que no se pueden detener,” or “Of the things that can not be stopped,” which illustrates two large hands weaving together a woman’s hair.

Abitia, who said the painting was too large for her to work on in her small apartment, said she spent roughly two hours every day working on the piece at the Instituto Municipal de Fomento a la Cultura y Los Artes, or Imfoculta for short. During Saturday’s event, she also showed attendees photographs she took throughout the more than month-long process.

For Tucson artist Judy Miller, who was recommended to the consulate by the Tucson Museum of Art, participating in the exhibition was an opportunity to show her artwork to a new audience. Miller said her three pieces on display were created “intuitively” using photographs she’s taken herself as the background of the artwork.

“I let the background become the catalyst for my idea,” she said, adding that she takes inspiration from the colors and themes of the photograph to create the rest of the piece.

‘Connects us all’

Addressing the more than 100 people in attendance at Saturday’s opening, Teal, who later estimated that upwards of 200 people made their way through the museum’s hallways during the two-hour event, said the consulate worked with Guadalupe Serrano, director of the museum, to create and curate the exhibition.

He said he first became interested in creating such an event at the end of 2016, with the goal of using art to break down barriers, not just physical, but also cultural, linguistic and political. Art, he added, is something “that connects us all.”

Alejandro Martinez, deputy consul at the Mexican Consulate in Nogales, Ariz., said he was impressed not only with the number of pieces, but also the quality of the artwork.

Asked what his favorite piece was, Martinez pointed to a large drawing depicting a rendering of “El Gran Muro de Mexico,” or “The Great Wall of Mexico,” imagined to extend from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The piece, which seems to poke fun at President Trump’s proposal to build “a great wall” between the United States and Mexico, includes text describing how the barrier was inspired by the Great Wall of China and will “not only provide jobs for the next 100 years, but it will also serve as a commercial space. People from the north will not need to cross into Mexico to purchase pharmaceuticals or souvenirs.”

Attendee Mike McClan said his favorite piece was Carlos Cabrera’s “Street Band,” a colorful painting showing a group of musicians playing in the background as a smaller group drinks in the street.

McClan and partner Anne Jehle, a local artist and board member at the Hilltop Gallery, said events like this are important because they help foster a close binational relationship. McClan added that he was encouraged by the number of artists who participated and the number of people who attended Saturday’s event, with Jehle joking that she had to figure out a way to get both the artists and attendees to Hilltop Gallery in Nogales, Ariz.

The exhibit will remain on display until July 31 and admission is free. The Museo de Arte is located at Avenida Adolfo López Mateos 120, two blocks south of the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry, and is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

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