Art at an international border is inherently political.
Much of it – the stuff people remember anyway – is outright protest art that boldly tackles themes like immigration, human rights and binational policies.
Even the fence itself has become a canvas for powerful paintings and installations, but other border art uses the wall and the people who cross it as a concept, creating performance pieces or other multimedia works meant to challenge perceptions of the international border.
Regardless of your politics, border art provokes strong emotional reactions.
There’s been an uptick in border art now that President Donald Trump is in office. His plans to build a wall and step up immigration enforcement has brought the U.S.-Mexico border back into sharp focus.
With so much attention on the border right now, it’s worth taking a quick look at some of the art that’s attempted to tackle the prickly issues surrounding it. In no particular order, here are 20 instances of gutsy, often controversial art that has explored the border.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
My favorite border provocation was a large billboard that appeared in Tecate about three years ago, long before any Mexicans heard of Trump. The billboard was a large, clean, professional job, which faced into the USA, with English text proclaiming (as best I can recall): Countrymen; when you travel north of the border, whether or not you become a "citizen" remember that the land you walk on once was, and always will be, AZTLAN!
When I travel to Mexico, I never spray paint Mexican public facilities. Why do Mexicans consider defacing American property to be their birthright? (And yes, the fence is set back a couple of feet onto USA property, so there is no "Mexico" side of the fence.) OTOH, thanks Mexicans; your paint efforts are appreciated in that they will make the fence last longer. This proves that Trump was right; Mexicans will provide free supplies and labor to maintain the fence.
@Ed Price You answered your own question. Reread your comment above. The AZTLAN "movement", if you can call it that, consists of Mexicans and Mexican Americans trying to convince themselves that upper California will, somehow and someday, be recaptured by Mexico, so it's OK to make an artist's canvas of any flat surface on our side of the border.