Members' Online Gallery's Portfolio Competition July 2010

Emerging Artist

Al Braden from Austin, Texas
Rio Grande/Rio Bravo/Rio Conflict
To view a gallery of the Exhibit.

Both, it feels, as I approach the fence in silence under the eye of Border Patrol. I wonder where the river is, what we have lost and how to preserve relationships across this stream. Cease living in fear of our own heritage. My images represent the beginning of a larger work to see the entire Rio Grande/Rio Bravo in contemporary terms. This was Pueblo before Spanish, Spanish before Mexican and Mexican before American. We are all still here, layer upon layer in a state of tension, exploitation and exclusion. And sometimes acceptance and brotherhood. All mixed. All mixed up. Away from the border, America believes it a simple job protection and security issue.

Here in Tigua, Pueblo people dance in the courtyard of a Spanish mission on land that was once Mexico as they are exploited by America. The dance is to a God that all claim to serve. It is an explosive and complex caldo - laced with culture, history, race, chile, poverty, masa, cocaine and gasoline. The Rio Grande is my home river - I grew up bicycling its levees, enjoying the easy cantinas of dusty Zaragosa and open markets of Juarez. I have family on both sides. Those ways have given way to a harsh border reality. We ask much of this ribbon in the sand: irrigate our fields, feed our souls, show us a path, be our boundary, separate our nations, join our cultures. Both protect us and give us definition.

Beginning at the Continental Divide, the river sparkles, a trout fishing paradise above Creede, and yields to diversion dams and irrigation in the San Luis Valley. Rugged canyons and white water pass Taos and flow through Albuquerque in New Mexico’s heart, home to Pueblo people and Spanish missions. Whites from the east conquered Native and Mexican peoples along the river, claiming the region for America. The cultures merge, clash, merge and clash again. Water wars sparked conflict between Mesilla, El Paso and Juarez. Now we have drug wars of unimaginable brutality. An often-dry riverbed leaving El Paso del Norte is not replenished until Ojinaga by Mexico’s Rio Concho. Impressive canyons of Big Bend that once defied exploration now offer the most remote water path in the continental United States.. Massive dams irrigate the Lower Valley - its own culture and traditions going back to wars of independence for both sides and between both sides. In some years not enough water flows to get over that final sandbar at Boca Chica. Blue herons fish with Mexicans in the shallows as a Border Patrol pickup sits quietly on the north beach. Spread throughout the Rio Grande / Rio Bravo are peoples and families from that earlier time - now with immense fences and formidable border crossings. This story is of a river both historic and intense. Today, all the more so as a post 9-11 line in the desert. The river is no longer center, but edge.

The triptych form allows me to amplify the presentation - either with multiple views of the same object - or with contrasting subjects which get at the issue. It allows a strong story line, yet I feel, its very realism leaves it ambiguous as the real border. “There,” I said printing a five foot wide triptych of the border fence, “I don’t want the edge of my country to look like this!” The image takes me to many other failed walls, Auschwitz, Berlin, Japanese American internment camps, Palestine. A fence fails in so many ways to solve the sociopolitical problems. And it diverts attention and resources as if it were the solution. “So there!”, I thought, staring at the image. Of course, to an Arizona Minuteman or other believer in the fence, their response could just as well be, “Yes and 2,000 miles more just like it!” The triptych form may make a powerful realism - but it can only catch attention and hope to start discussion of the underlying issues.


Mid-Career Artist

April Pilley from Lubbock, Texas
To The End, Nature Remains
To view a gallery of the Exhibit.


As a child traveling through the country, I became fascinated with the landscape and the people who once lived in the homesteads seen from the highway. Exploring the countryside, I discovered farmhouse floorboards rotted away and families long gone but wildflowers flourishing.

The flowers featured here represent those that thrive at the site of my grandparent’s four-room farmhouse where they lived for over 50 years and raised seven children.

I portray wildflowers because these are the flowers that created the bouquets Grandpa gave Grandma and brightened their hard scrabbled days. My grandparents are now gone as is their farmhouse, but the wildflowers remain as our inheritance.

April Pilley portrays the often overlooked beauty found in an otherwise harsh, uninviting landscape. April challenges herself to take the time to find the charm in such objects as the abandoned farmhouse, the rusting fender, the desolute graveyard, and the wildflower.
April always thought that capturing a fleeting moment in time was one of the most beautiful endeavors. She enjoys capturing the landscape of Llano Estacado. Here is an untapped, inate beauty hiding in plain sight. She utilizes the story-telling abilities of the lens to share her perspective.
She is a self-taught photographer, taking to the empty fields to experiment. She was thrown into the fire upon learning of the City of Lubbock’s Parks Photography Competition and Exhibition. Never expecting anyone to appreciate her photography, April was stunned when she won first place for “Farfalla: A Butterfly at Lake Allan Henry.”
April has a Bachelor’s of Art, art history, and Master’s of Art, museum science, from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Having finished her education, she is reuniting with her creativity to share her adventures with the world.