Art exhibit addresses border relationships

At the forefront of social awareness and art activism, San Diego State University premiered its compelling photographic show, We are Here/Estamos Aquí on July 27 at the SDSU Downtown Gallery. The riveting exhibition displays works from artists Stefan Falke, Ingrid Hernandez, Tom Kiefer, Pieter Wisse, and Borderclick, a collection of young, upcoming artists connected through The AjA Project, a San Diego nonprofit.

The show focuses on the U.S.-Mexico border, in particular the San Ysidro entry, the busiest border crossing in the world, located just 20 miles from the heart of San Diego. Along with examining the cross-border cultures of local areas and Tijuana, the show also reveals what's happening along the 2,000 miles of border from Texas to California.

When asked about photography as the medium, gallery director Chantel Paul said, "Photography is accessible. It has a power to convey the human condition and to open the door to personal reflection. We're bringing together many ideas and personal stories that speak to border crossing and the U.S./Mexico border as a place that changes lives and with its own rich culture."

At the top of the list of must-see photographs in the show are the visual essay pieces of Tom Kiefer. Titled El Sueño Americano (The American Dream), the photos display the belongings of migrants and smugglers confiscated by Border Patrol. Engrossing in its repetition and average items-become art subject matter, the images provoke thoughtful reflection and conversation. He explains, "My intent is to explore the humanity of the migrants who risk their lives crossing through the desert and to create a personal connection for the viewer to a migrant and hope for a better life."

Well known photographer Stefan Falke presents a variety of photographs, including La Frontera, his portrait series of activists, artists, musicians, writers, designers and architects. He noted, "I am trying to tell a different and positive story about La Frontera - a painfully divided yet multicultural, cosmopolitan and resilient 2,000-miles long region that is like its own country. My picture of Raechel Running, an American photographer facing the wall in Agua Prieta with her binational flag, is a symbol of deep cultural friendships and artistic collaborations across the border despite the physical divide."

Other compelling images include Falke's photograph of photographer Peter Svarsbein at the old trolley depot in El Paso (Svarsbein created the activist/artist project El Paso Transnational Trolley Project), and Ingrid Hernandez and Pieter Wisse's risograph, ¿A dónde va?

We are Here/Estamos Aquí runs through Oct. 29. The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday, and is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Parking is available at One America Plaza at 600 W. Broadway (ABM parking garage) $5 flat rate when you enter after 5pm and exit before midnight.

SDSU Downtown Gallery: 725 W Broadway, (619)-501-6370, art.sdsu.edu/sdsu-downtown-gallery

Upcoming events

Community dialogue on art as activism with Borderclick: 6-8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 3 

Downtown at Sundown: 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Aug.18

Downtown at Sundown with DJ Monica Mendoza: 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21

Downtown at Sundown: 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 19

(Note: All are free and open to the public)

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