Artist uses adobe bricks to explore cultural identity

Artist uses adobe bricks to explore cultural identity in Marfa, Texas. 

The sun is starting to rise in the West Texas town of Marfa.

Outside an unassuming art gallery, Rafa Esparza is preparing for the final phase in his latest creation.

"The title of the exhibition is called 'Tierra Sangre Oro' and its' actually a visual title so when you see it in the gallery it will be printed in color," Esparza said.

Esparza is a Los Angeles based artist and he's talking about a group exhibition that he envisioned.

"The exhibition is built intentionally out of a group of brown artists that know land, that know space that know bodies," Esparza said.

A key component to the exhibit is an installation piece that Esparza is creating using mud bricks, otherwise known as adobe.

"The three adoberos I've been working with are Maria Garcia from Los Angeles, Ruben Rodriguez from El Paso and Sandra Canovas who is here from Marfa," he said.

Esparza says he's trying to use architecture to explore the visibility of Latinos in society, specifically in this town that's become an internationally recognized arts colony.

"But every different artist has an incredible unique perspective," he said.

Esparza says he was moved by the adobe walls he saw in Marfa - walls that erode while the plaster remains.

"What's left is a honeycombed wall," he said.

The exhibit at Ballroom Marfa featured Esparza's adobe archway out front, but it also included works from several other artists, including photographs and tapestries. The opening on Aug. 25 featured music and dance and even cyclist Lance Armstrong made an appearance.

As for Esparza, the impermanence of the mud bricks is what fed his inspiration and he hopes this addition to the ballroom's architecture will continue to inspire others, even if it's only temporary.

"So that's what i hope is for people to be able to walk into a space where they are immersed by land and be part of the conversation," he said.

Tierra Sangre Oro will remain on display through March of 2018.

Ballroom Marfa is located at 108 E. San Antonio St., Marfa Texas.

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