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Artist’s ‘Border Stories’ Depicts the World Through An Immigrant’s Eyes

The University of Alabama Department of Art and Art History is proud to present the Master of Fine Arts exhibition of Juan Lopez-Bautista. Border Stories opens October 18 and will run through November 17, 2021, in the Sella-Granata Art Gallery, Woods Hall, UA campus.

Juan Lopez-Bautista, a Mexican American artist and biologist, creates large mixed media works collaged with images related to people migrating to the US-Mexican border. The artworks, painted with acrylic washes, inks, dry pigments, and acrylic transfers on synthetic paper and panels, depict migrants, and the objects that represent their presence, immersed in an abstract landscape as in a struggle for survival. Lopez-Bautista uses images of the traces of migrants, traces that “show the remains from a journey, the residues of long and sometimes deadly crossings.” He explains, “the items left behind by immigrants are objects with meaning; they are remnants of stories to be told, clothing and shoes that someone wore, forgotten toys and dolls, and bags that at one time contained cherished heirlooms. Although the objects appear faded after being exposed for weeks or years to the desert conditions, they still vividly contrast with the arid and inhospitable environment.”

“A Journey Experienced Through An Immigrant’s Eyes.”

Lopez-Bautista’s recent work has been in response, he said, “to the social maelstrom that our country is facing. In particular,” he explained, “the political targeting of immigrant minorities, mostly undocumented Mexican immigrants, that has created a sense of personal fear and insecurity. As an immigrant and hyphenated citizen (Mexican-American), I am not unfamiliar with an environment of fear and insecurity.”

The child of an American father and a Mexican mother, Lopez-Bautista’s explorations of his own maternal family’s migration from central Mexico to the US, “provided me with clues to understand my complex identity,” and led him to empathize with what other Mexican immigrants have gone through and are going through now. “My work,” he said, “represents an empathetic invitation to appreciate the migratory issue…and to embrace my immigrant and hyphenated citizenship identities.” He said, “During my painting process, I challenge myself to arrive at the poetics of in-betweenness amid the abstraction process and the landscape’s human presence. I envision my artworks as social settings, where race, survival, resilience and hope occupy the same pictorial space.”

Juan Lopez-Bautista is a professor of biology at The University of Alabama and a candidate for the degree of Master of Fine Arts at UA. He has held recent solo exhibitions at the Gadsden Museum of Art, Lowe Mill Arts in Huntsville, and the Martin-Lett Gallery of Art in the Oxford Performing Arts Center, Oxford, Alabama. He holds a Ph.D. in plant biology from Louisiana State University and has taught for more than a decade in UA’s department of biology. His scientific research focuses on the biodiversity, systematics and phylogenomics of marine and terrestrial algae and he teaches courses in the biology of algae, plant biology and advanced phycology. 

The Sella-Granata Art Gallery is an essential part of the education and development of UA students and our community. The gallery is located at 109 Woods Hall, 7th Avenue, on UA campus in Tuscaloosa and admission is free. The gallery is open to the public and visitors must wear face coverings inside the gallery. 

Gallery hours are Monday 9:00 am-6:00 pm; Tuesday 12:30 pm-6:00 pm; Wednesday 9:00 am-8:00 pm; Thursday 12:30-8:00 pm; Friday 10:00 am-2:00 pm.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.