'Beyond Borders: Stories
of im/Migration'

A new group exhibit at Santa Clara University explores the migrant identity
Shannon Wright's 'Feral Fence' skewers the concept of artificial borders and the walls built to enforce them.

Tessie Barrera-Scharaga is one of two San Jose artists whose work is included in "Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration," on now through April 6 at Santa Clara University's Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building Gallery. Independently curated by Karen Gutfreund and Sherri Cornett of Gutfreund Cornett Art, they've put together an exhibit that brings their statement of purpose—"Changing the World Through Art"—to life. The accompanying catalog describes the exhibit as one that "sheds light on the personal and observed narratives surrounding the struggles of flight, immigration, assimilation, deportation, and the perception of being 'other' in American society."

In a telephone interview, Barrera-Scharaga discussed her contribution to the show—Cartography of Longing. Originally conceived as a series of seven pieces, three of them appear in "Beyond Borders": Letting Go, In Between and Songs for the Journey. They straddle the line between painting and sculpture. In each work, strands of paper connect a painting to a found object like an umbilical cord that never gets cut. She says that "the pieces started from memories, from childhood events." Although born in New York City, her mother was Salvadoran and her father was Colombian. Their different backgrounds meant that the family moved across continents, countries and cultures throughout her childhood.

As the title suggests, the paintings in Cartography of Longing contain maps of the places she's been. But the artist paints in a gorgeous wash of color, a vivid green or magenta, and ghostly, faceless figures staring at the viewer from a lost world. Barrera-Scharaga says that "a lot of the images for the paintings came from family albums. They represent people in the past who have changed in time and, sometimes, aren't even here with us any longer." After seeing the exhibit herself, she felt that, thematically speaking, many of the other artists also "speak to that longing for the things that you knew and were familiar with, that you loved and cannot reach anymore."

Shannon Wright, another artist based in San Jose, contributed Feral Fence, a galvanized and zinc-plated steel chain link fence with barbed wire. The artist describes the fence as "a vision of a kind of 'magical thinking,' of a natural, gradual unraveling of an act of human aggression." Originally conceived in 2007, it wasn't then meant as a rebuke to the current U.S. government's proposal to build a wall along its shared border with Mexico. But in this context, newly rebuilt and adjusted for the gallery's indoor space, the fence takes on a sense of urgent poignancy. Feral Fence makes a singular suggestion: Let walls and fences crumble and rust. Let them dissolve beneath tree limbs and climbing vines. Let them become meaningless.

Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration
Thru April 6
Santa Clara University, Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building Gallery

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