Posted on June 5, 2020 at 3:00 PM by Lilah Anderson
When given the suggestion of writing a blog post of the Educator’s Choice, I felt a bit daunted by what to choose. There are many works of art in our collection that I regularly teach with, and many that move me deeply as an individual viewer, and those works of art that are the most powerful often do both of these things. Fortunately, I have a few times scheduled throughout the coming months to select objects to share so I do not have to choose just one.
Cruzando El Rio Bravo (Border Crossing) by Luis Jiménez (Latino American, 1940 – 2006) is a sculpture on central campus that I love taking classes to and seeing through the seasons. With its towering height, unique style, and powerful imagery it is an impactful work of art. During classes I focus on visual literacy skills, guiding students on how to look closely and developing thoughtful responses to art that ultimately can inform other areas of life. This sculpture offers many details that can be analyzed, and through thinking routines, a space opens for dialogue about current issues of immigration in a thoughtful and safe context. Jiménez gravitated towards public art and wanted his sculptures to be seen by many. He said of his sculptures, “The purpose of public art is to create a ‘dialogue’, I like that word better than ‘controversy.’” This sentiment resonates with me because so much of the teaching we do in our Visual Literacy Program at Iowa State is to use art as a starting point for discussion and as way to understand ideas and think critically.
Border Crossing is an edition of five fiberglass casts from an original clay model, painted with autobody paint. Jiménez learned techniques for artmaking at a young age from his father who ran a neon sign business and his use of everyday materials, rather than those of traditional sculpture, makes his sculptures more accessible and reinforces his desire that art is to be shared with all people, not just those in galleries and museums. Border Crossing depicts a larger-than-life-sized man carrying a woman who cradles a child. Their features are exaggerated and exude struggle. The sculpture has a dedication to Jiménez’s father who crossed the Rio Grande River in 1924 and is the screaming child depicted in the arms of the artist’s grandparents. This sculpture also shows a more general story of a widely shared journey and emotional experience bringing it to a more human level. Through his body of work, Jiménez shared scenes from the Mexico-US Border that transcended place and could speak to a wider vision of humanity.
In a digital program this April, I gave a tour of the Art on Campus Collection on central campus and Border Crossing is one of the featured works of art. I encourage you to have a look at the video or if you are able to safely visit the sculpture in person, to see the textural details, vibrant colors and totemic scale. Below I have included an article with biographical information about Jiménez’s career that was tragically cut short, as well as an interview with him talking about his artistic process.
A group of honors students stop at Border Crossing by Luis Jiménez during an Art on Campus tour.
Cruzando El Rio Bravo (Border Crossing), 1989 by Luis Jiménez. Located outside of LaBaron Hall. Purchased by the College of Consumer and Family Sciences. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2000.67