In Bravo/Grande, artist Zeke Peña explores the complex relationship between the Rio Grande River and its regional communities through site-responsive art projects. By documenting oral and written stories, as well as incorporating creative community engagement and collaboration, this multidisciplinary work considers generational and binational trends in the access, use, and perception of the river. Through surveys and conversation, Peña explores how young people comprehend the national border, the military wall, and the river as synonymous concepts, and hypothesizes that the community’s relationship to the Rio Grande has changed significantly through immigration policies and increased militarization of the border. More specifically, access to the river has been limited, and this natural meeting place has become a militarized tool for division and segregation.
Peña then contrasts these contemporary perceptions of the river by documenting stories from multi-generational and transnational members of the El Paso and Juarez communities. He is particularly interested in how the relationship with the river differs from older and younger generations, as well as how that relationship compares between communities living on both sides of the river. The resulting portrait of the Rio Grande River is a multivalent one comprising symbolic, spiritual, pragmatic, and recreational perspectives.
Zeke Peña, Bravo/Grande Series: Christian Pardo Cardenas, 2016, oil on wood. Courtesy of the Artist.