I remember the El Paso Museum of Art when it was on Montana Street, in Central El Paso. The white, classic columned building was hard to miss. There was an order about it that clearly stood out on the long, mostly residential and some business lined street.
Now, the museum stands as a cement clay and cobalt modern construction, in the heart of colorful and chaotic downtown El Paso. It’s only a few blocks from the U.S. – Mexico border. The location feels just right for an art museum.
It’s surrounded by historic and architecturally significant buildings. The museum site itself was once the Greyhound bus terminal. I have memories there, of waiting for my dad to come in from his UNM days. Now, it’s all about the arts. For me, it’s generating more valuable memories. I park at a distance and appreciate walking through the area. Living in Phoenix now, a newer city, I appreciate that downtown El Paso architecture is grand, detailed, full of age, variety, and colorful history. Though there are many changes in the area, it’s still very familiar to me.
The museum is full today. I spot a family as they leave. The father says loudly, That was a marvelous experience! Yes, it was! the children respond. Through gesture, mother agrees. Are they shooting a commercial, I wonder, as I look around for a camera man. I note the young, middle-aged and old. I see the Mexican, American, German, Oriental. I understand the English, the Spanish, and the Tex-Mex. I’m in El Paso, Texas. Though Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell are showing, I’m here to see Margarita Cabrera‘s work.
Margarita Cabrera-El Paso Artist
Until August 2013, the El Paso Museum of Art will feature eleven artworks from the last ten years by Monterrey, Mexico born artist Margarita Cabrera. Cabrera first became known for her soft-sculptures of commercial products such as coffee makers and blenders manufactured at US-owned maquiladoras in Mexico to serve as reminders of the labor involved. In time Cabrera’s concern for the role of laborers who build American products outside the United States outgrew her interest in the objects themselves, and she began to organize projects that involved the work of artisans from immigrant communities.
I love Cabrera’s Arbol de la Vida, John Deere Model 790. I learn it’s the result of a project involving the creation of a life-size replica of a John Deere tractor in clay, the “tree of life” for many workers in the agricultural community. Cabrera`s cross-cultural perspective allows her artistic practice to involve the political, social and emotional aspects of two distinct, yet closely connected cultures.
Lovely copper butterflies make up an installation titled The Craft of Resistance. They cover one wall and go up to the ceiling and sprinkle onto parts of the second floor staircase. The work explores the impact of border politics on Mexican craft-making traditions. The piece portrays the metamorphosis of Mexican tradition, history, and culture as a result of the current maquiladora-based economy.
In Cabrera’s series of soft sculptures , threads left exposed serve as a reminder of the labor involved in the manufacturing. Sagging vinyl imbues the work with an anthropomorphic quality that references the harsh nature of worker’s realities.
The work is strong, visually and conceptually. Consequently, again I note and appreciate that the museum is full on this day.
I walk upstairs to follow the butterflies and to get a few more photographs. I come across an area where museum-owned work is shown, including some local El Paso artist’s work.
…a few other artists
Above is a digital photograph by El Paso’s David Quintanilla. Of course, I know his “Boycott Hate” campaign, which is in reaction to the AZ Immigration law. I’m pleased to be reminded of him and see his work in the museum. It’s not owned by the museum, it’s borrowed.
Below is Carol Feuerman‘s very realistic swimmer titled Summer / Verano. The figurative work is part of the museum’s collection. I’m allowed to photograph it, but not touch. I want to touch…the spills of water, the tube, her wrinkled feet…damn.
Below is Harry Geffert‘s large bronze sculpture (and detail) called Mantime. Both work and title amuse me.
I wasn’t going to do it, but in the end, I decide to photograph Luis Jimenez‘s Barfly – Statue of Liberty. Truth is I don’t always connect to Jimenez’s work. But the fiberglass sculpture is large, impressive, and he was from El Paso, so…I can’t ignore it.
I wonder, as I finish this post, why did the museum relocate? I was already gone when that change occurred. The building and ambiance are most certainly different. I love the modern feel, the natural light, and it’s certainly in the mix of things…as a museum should be.
If you’re in El Paso, take a walk downtown, connect with the history, and drop into the El Paso Museum of Art. It’s true, it might best be known for the historical Kress Collection which includes some of the most beautiful egg tempera paintings on panel I’ve seen. It’s also a place that holds an eclectic collection of contemporary artworks. Just like the city, I’d say its history and diversity is unique.