The 17 Best Border-Inspired Artworks and Artists in Metro Phoenix

Lynn Trimble

New Times' Best of Phoenix is out now. Here's our list of the best border-inspired art and artists.

Best Border-Related Museum Exhibition: “Landlocked” by Miguel Angel Ríos
Between the latter days of MTV music videos and early days of Periscope livestreaming, Mexico-based artist Miguel Angel Ríos picked up a video camera. That was in the late 1990s, and Ríos has incorporated video in his art practice ever since. His "Landlocked" exhibition at ASU Art Museum last fall featured not only four world-premiere video works commissioned by the museum, but also a comprehensive look at his broader art practice comprising social and political narratives addressing power, apathy, and violence.

Tom Kiefer's Sunflowewer Lighters in "El Sueno Americano — The American Dream"EXPAND
Tom Kiefer's Sunflowewer Lighters in "El Sueno Americano — The American Dream"
Lynn Trimble

Best Border-Related Gallery Exhibition: “El Sueño Americano — The American Dream”
Photographer Tom Kiefer spent more than a decade working part time as a janitor for a U.S. Border Patrol facility near Ajo, Arizona, where he used his camera to document the personal effects seized from migrants, then thrown away — including wallets, underwear, rosaries, soap, birth-control pills, and more.

Masks by Zarco Guerrero exhibited at The Gallery at TCA.EXPAND
Masks by Zarco Guerrero exhibited at The Gallery at TCA.
Lynn Trimble

Best Storyteller: Zarco Guerrero 
Zarco Guerrero, mask-maker and musician, knows about the power to transform with his ethnographic masks, with his physicality, and with his words. Catch him at Dia de Los Muertos PHX Festival, a free event held at Steele Indian School Park, using his highly expressive calaca masks to tell stories that mix humor and a zest for life with remembering those who have passed. Or, find him collaborating with Childsplay at their fall event, the El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession, where he performs as Zarco Guerrero and the Dancing Dragons.

Best Traditional Mexican Dance: Ballet Folklorico Ollin Yoliztli
We know you've seen it before. The bright, colorful dresses, the braided hair with flowers, the embroidered jackets and pants, the large decorative sombreros. The women and girls dance in hypnotizing circles while holding the hems of their long skirts up in the air, swishing them back and forth gracefully. The men stamp their feet, echoing the beat of the music. This is folklorico, a traditional Mexican dance. And our favorite performers of this historic art form belong to Ballet Folklorico Ollin Yoliztli.

Best Our Lady of Guadalupe: Virgen de Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe, the iconic representation of the Virgin Mary encircled by gold rays with the moon at her feet, is a cross-border phenomenon. It's also a symbol of resilience. To see a stunning example, check out the 18th-century painting Virgen de Guadalupe at Phoenix Art Museum. First seen last fall in the exhibition "Masterworks of Spanish Colonial Art," the painting is now on permanent display.

Best Place to Learn Mariachi & Folklorico Dance: C.A.L.L.E. de Arizona
History is at the center of everything C.A.L.L.E. de Arizona does. The nonprofit's goal is to share the rich history of Mexican culture through various art forms. Two of these are music and dance, specifically mariachi and folklorico. And they celebrate these traditional arts at the yearly Mariachi and Folklorico Festival in Chandler.

Best Place to See Lucha Libre: Lucha Libre Por 
A word to the wise, wey: Don't expect to see any WWE-style pyrotechnics, posturing, or production values at the weekly wrestling events put on by Lucha Libre Por. (You can always catch Raw or SmackDown for that sort of stuff, cabron.) Here, it's all about bigger action, wilder matches, and higher-flying acrobatics, with a majority of grapplers sporting colorful and exotic-looking masks. In other words, all the traditions of Mexican-style wrestling, better known as lucha libre.

A Lalo Cota work at Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva.
A Lalo Cota work at Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva.
Evie Carpenter

Best Border-Inspired Muralist: Lalo Cota
Day of the Dead festivals, inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, pop up around metro Phoenix every fall. Add in Cinco de Mayo, and you've got a whopping couple of days when Mexican culture seems to be on everyone's mind. Works by Phoenix artist Lalo Cota, who was born in Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico, pretty much assure that those who see them will have Mexico on the brain a lot more often.

First balloon installed for Repellent Fence (in Douglas, Arizona).
First balloon installed for Repellent Fence (in Douglas, Arizona).
Lynn Trimble

Best Border Art: Repellent Fence by Postcommodity
Sky-high storytelling: That's what a trio of artists in the collective Postcommodity brought to the Arizona-Mexico border in October with a temporary land art installation called Repellent Fence, comprising a row of more than two dozen 10-foot-diameter balloons with scare-eye iconography used by farmers and gardeners to repel unwanted birds from their land. Artists Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martinez, and Kade L. Twist worked with community members in Agua Prieta, Sonora, and Douglas, Arizona, to float the balloons 50 feet above the desert for several days, bisecting the border while prompting conversations about attempts to marginalize, repel, or destroy indigenous people within and beyond the borderlands.

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