Fenced In

The intention of The Sketchbook is to share the process of creating art, and this post is in that spirit. In a previous entry, I shared a photo essay on the subject of the border fence between El Paso Texas and Ciudad Juárez Mexico. On a recent trip to El Paso, I continued my photography of the Fence, and in my re-visiting of what was a very informal effort, an artistic approach has now emerged, along with an intention to pursuing this as a full-blown artistic project. The artistic approach that I am now pursuing is the creation of images of the landscape that are mediated by the structure of the border fence, inverting the usual stereotype of the latino looking longingly through the fence at Del Norte, and taking the perspective that it is actually we, on the north side of the border fence, who are being fenced.

The Fence creates an illusion of safety and order upon the messiness of human life; it creates a barrier to seeing the people south of the border as our fellow human beings. Likewise, these photographs project order by the foreground symmetry of the fence structure, while the colorful, messy uncertainty of the Mexican city and the majesty of the desert landscape play on in the background; the texture of the fencing material pixelating our view, and enhancing the sense of distance and abstraction; Mexico becomes an alien, mysterious, and distant place.

The photographs also ask a question: who is being fenced? Is it the feared foreigners, or our own hearts and minds that are being caged? Are we suffering from the alien hordes descending on our homeland, or from a refusal to open our experience to others –having chosen instead to objectify and abstract our brethren using the fence as a physical, psychological, and metaphorical barrier?

Each landscape that I address in my work finds its own particular form of visual expression. For the landscape of the Border Fence, it is a view that takes the Fence as a mediator of the landscape that it divides.. Here are a sampling of initial images for what I am calling Fenced In.

The Border Fence along the Border Highway, southeast of downtown El Paso

Ciudad Juárez near el paso del norte.

Unidentified structures in Cuidad Juárez.


Bicyclists ride the river levee in Ciudad Juárez.

The Colonia Felipe Angeles neighborhood.

Border Patrol

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