El Viento Viene, El Viento Se Va — La Frontera @ HCCC
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft has the dubious distinction of being one of the best places to see beautiful objects imbued with meaning while also being the most poorly-marketed art space. It’s the best museum you might never have heard of.
This is the last weekend to catch their excellent La Frontera exhibition 215 jewelry pieces by 90 different artists representing 21 countries. Check out this bit from the press release:
In his essay for the exhibition catalog, Mexican writer, Benito Taibo, poetically described the show as “conceptual art that uses the body, the neck, the wrist, and the shoulders as a canvas to shape, in all its splendor, the bewitched, the fantasy, and also the sadness that is the frontier and what it signifies. It’s a final frontier that eats its children and the children of other territories and then spits them all over the land, transforming [them] into different beings, with different passions, all in search of a place in the world.”
I wrote a long rant about a lame talk I attended there on Wednesday, but instead of publishing that, I’m going to share these photos with you, instead, in hopes of enticing you to go between now and 5:00 pm on Sunday when it comes down.
This is a riff on a common street sign you might see near border areas. Comparing migrant families to wildlife—what does that inscription on the Statue of Liberty say again?
If I had to pick one favorite piece in the show, I think I’d pick this one. It just speaks to me, conceptually, the idea of a barbed wire necklace.
Another barbed-wire necklace. The piece on view at the museum does not come with the model attached.
The brooch that resembles a chain link fence is another one of my favorites. It’s called Fence, by Marina Sheetikof from Brazil, and it’s made of copper and gold. I like to imagine what it must feel like to wear a fence over your heart—are you protecting yourself? From what? Or do you leave your heart behind when you cross that border?
Speaking of hearts, this piece called Suffering features a quartz heart with nails driven into it, implying that border crossers must turn their hearts to stone in order to endure the suffering of being rent from their homes, families, and communities.
This installation shot features the railroad-inspired necklace by Mexico’s Jette Zirpins, which is called La Bestia and was made of plastic, nickel, sterling silver, and magnets in 2023.
There is so much about people that we don’t know—the baggage, the shadows, the things left behind that we carry with us, always.
Fingerprints are given the artistic treatment in at least two pieces in the show. This one is a wearable rendering of a fingerprint.
Installation shot showing Maria Fernanda Barba’s Migrante no identificado.
This pendant, which can be worn on a chain, allows people to mask their fingerprints.
Bracelets as handcuffs were another popular theme. Do the fine objects we covet liberate us or bind us?
This piece by Italian artist Chiara Pignotti contains beach glass from either Chula Vista, CA or Tijuana, Baja California. (There are two pieces—one with white beach glass and this with green beach glass. The glass was taken from opposite sides of the border.)
Again, imagine somebody wearing this flower made of found glass shards over their heart. Would you want to hug them? From what are they protecting their heart?
Another barbed wire choker.
I read this necklace as a comment on a hybrid identity and the weight that we carry. The ceramic pendants are made from clay gathered in both Mexico and the US.
Another comment on hybrid identities.
One of the funnier pieces in the show. Another comment on hybrid identities.
This reversible necklace (depicting both sides of the border) shows cartoonish figures doing horrifying things, which just adds to the horror of it.
There is another 3D printed conceptual piece that mashes up the Statue of Liberty with the Virgin of Guadalupe. That works better, conceptually, but this works better as an image. Go check out both and decide for yourself.
The type of water vessel migrants might carry while crossing the border, or which might be left along the route by good Samaritans.
One of the funnier pieces in the show. These are keychains featuring images of wanted narco-traffickers.
I’m just going to give you the artist’s statement for this one:
These pieces pay homage to the empathy that the women of La Patrona, a small town in rural Veracruz, Mexico, have towards migrants in their journey to the border.
Everyday at 2:00 in the afternoon, women of La Patrona, wait for “the Beast” to pass by. “The Beast” is a freight train that runs from southern Mexico to the US-Mexican border. Migrants travel on this train “clinging on like flies.” Standing at the train tracks, the patronas throw water and food wrapped up in containers and tied-up with a cord to the migrants while the train is in movement. This cord or bond is the frontier between a greeting and a farewell, between humans who give and those who receive light as a guide in a long and uncertain journey.
I will stop bombarding you with photos now. Go check out the show. (It looks like the HCCC web site is having issues at present, so I’ll tell you that it’s located on Main Street, right across from the Wendy’s just south of US 59, near the Lawndale Center for Art. 4848 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002. They are open until 5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, and their phone number is (713) 529-4848.) Now get off the internet at go look!
The lede photograph above features US artist Brook Battles’s Fence Choker, made of sterling silver, copper, and brass in 2023, taken by me.