The 17 Best Border-Inspired Artworks and Artists in Metro Phoenix
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"
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.
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.
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).
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.
Eduardo Sarabia's Snake Skin Boots with Snake Head
Best Permanent Public Art: Eduardo Sarabia's Snake Skin Boots with Snake Head
Carved from Mexican canterra stone and reaching seven feet in height, Eduardo Sarabia's Snake Skin Boots with Snake Head stands tall outside the Tempe museum, embellished with smiling snake heads and a nod to the Aztec god of war. It's a heavy statement, both literally and figuratively, as the sculpture piece weighs in at an immobile 4,000 pounds.
Best Border-Inspired Art Pioneer: Annie Lopez
Fourth-generation Arizonan Annie Lopez is a nationally renowned cyanotype artist whose photographs, sometimes created on tamale wrapping paper and sewn into dresses, tell stories of her own experiences and those of her family. Many reference her Mexican roots — sometimes exploring the cultural stereotypes prevalent in contemporary society.
Best Latina Art Collective: Phoenix Fridas
It's been more than a decade since Kathy Cano-Murillo, an artist and author who's built her own brand as the Crafty Chica, started the Phoenix Fridas art collective. The roster of artists — all Latina artists inspired by renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo — has changed through the years. Even so, it's remained a fierce group united by mutual respect and creativity despite varying art styles, ages, viewpoints, and personalities.
Julio Cesar Morales
courtesy Julio Cesar Morales
Best Curator of Border-Inspired Art: Julio Cesar Morales
When he joined ASU Art Museum as a curator in 2012, Julio César Morales said he was "particularly interested in art's unique ability to engage in a social context." It's something he's brought to life again and again, most recently with the exhibitions "Contemporary Photography in Mexico: Existe lo que tiene nombre" and "Miguel Angel Ríos: Landlocked."
Christian Aytch as the Foundling Father in ASU's production of The America Play.
Best Border-Inspired Performance Series: Arizona State University’s Performance in the Borderlands
Amid popular culture saturated with the noise of nonsensical political rhetoric, ASU's Performance in the Borderlands fostered collaborations that created safe, yet challenging spaces for dialogue about some of the most pressing issues in contemporary American life — including immigration and racism.
Best Ritual Dance: Town of Guadalupe Easter Ceremonies and Traditional Dances
Stretching across the seven weeks of Lent leading to Easter Sunday, the Yaqui Easter festival in Guadalupe offers a unique chance to watch centuries-old religious ceremonies up close and in person. In the 17th century, when Jesuit priests introduced Catholicism to the Yaqui, tribal members incorporated Christianity into cultural traditions and tribal customs, resulting in the unique ceremonies and dances celebrated today in Guadalupe.
Ana Teresa Fernandez symbolically erasing a portion of the U.S.-Mexico border with blue paint.
Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Best Border Installation: Ana Teresa Fernández
While others talk of building walls, San Francisco artist Ana Teresa Fernández is working to erase them. She's done several installations combining visual with performance art at various points along the U.S.-Mexico border. Each time, Fernández buys blue paint matching the particular sky overhead, then invites others to join her in painting blue the prison-like bars comprising the border fence. From a distance, it seems the border has been erased, giving rise to new perspectives on what might be possible without its looming presence.
Best Mariachis in Training: Rosie’s House: A Music Academy for Children
Combining a lively mix of violin, trumpet, guitar, and vocals, the young performers in the three mariachi ensembles from Rosie's House produce a full, passionate sound whether they're playing heartfelt corrido or a fast-paced polka. Students range in age from 5 to 18 at the academy, which offers classes in brass, woodwind, and string instruments, as well as choir. It's an impressive bunch: The Advanced Mariachi Ensemble performed recently at both the Tucson International Mariachi Conference and the Governor's Arts Awards.
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