Life Looked Over: A Picture of West Texas History

Life Looked Over premiered at Goliad Media's show promoting Denton artists in April of 2016.  Below is the synopsis of the work they commissioned me to create for them as the featured artist for their 2016 Artist in Residence series.  I've also included a few pictures from the event below and want to thank Goliad Media, Dan's Silver Leaf, Camille Green, Leslie Hartman, and AshleyYoung for their help in the opening.

[Artist's Statement]

Life Looked Over is a series of photographs inspired by the history of Texas border-towns and the transition of once-bustling communities in West Texas.  I was initially drawn to understand the history of this slice of Texas because my grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from Leon, Mexico and was a part of the cultural roots that now define life in Texas and beyond.  Research on towns like Shafter and Valentine shed light on a once booming silver and gold mining industry that proved to be short-lived and ultimately yielded fascinating shadows of communities that are now often over-looked and forgotten.

Initially I was intrigued and inspired to understand more about how an thriving community could become an abandoned ghost-town, and I wanted to document this fascinating transition through photographing places that gave new lives to people.  The parallel of big money in the form of silver and gold mining to our local struggles with big oil and their lack of concern for local communities was striking and all too familiar.  The practice of moving in, raping the land for natural resources, rewarding the economy with the benefits, but ultimately having no concern for the longterm welfare or existence of the citizens is a pattern that appears to repeat itself.  Although the ecological consequences of silver and gold may not be as severe as fracking or transmitting hazardous materials through protected land and communities, the general disregard for human life based on a low population density is apparent when looked at from an historical perspective.

The irony is that although these towns are largely documented as abandoned and sad, when they are experienced in person they are beautiful communities thriving on their own terms.  They are remnants of the way the Mexican immigrants helped to define and shape the culture not only in Texas but also throughout the United States.  They are towns satisfied with their status and aren’t seeking any change or progress as defined by many in more densely populated areas.  

It was only after physically being in these towns that I learned of the story of Milton Faver, who owned the largest ranch in Texas and employed countless ranch-hands from Mexico, or the struggle of Shafter residents to fight the installation of the Trans-Pecos pipeline, or the immensely expensive TARS program that created a larger than life blimp to keep Mexican immigrants from crossing the Rio Grande into Texas.  I wanted to show the people of West Texas, but it felt too intrusive into their way of life.  Instead the structures left behind, looked-over, or forgotten seemed to paint the picture of life in West Texas, both from its beginnings in the 19th century to present day.  Every image is in some way over-looked but crucial to the past and present of the history of West Texas and its many border towns.