Migration, Equity, and Diversity in Rural Spaces with Xavier Tavera
Please join Plains Art Museum and Art of the Rural virtually on three dates in May as five artists with art in the High Visibility exhibition explore their take on three topics surrounding their place in rural spaces. Join host Joe Williams as he guides us through conversations with Xavier Tavera, Marcus Lund, Joshua Zeis, Shanai Matteson, and Cannupa Hanska Luger.
Since 2001, Xavier Tavera has been traveling at least once a year to Crookston, Minnesota, to work with In Progress, a nonprofit organization that offers photography, writing, and digital storytelling opportunities to the Latinx community in this rural region. Located in the Red River Valley of the North Basin, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, Crookston is a community whose agricultural economy is dependent on immigrant and migrant families to harvest and process sugar beets, potatoes, grains, and sunflowers.
Tavera has cultivated a long term, multigenerational body of work that includes his own photography alongside his teaching youth mediamaking skills, in a community – like many others across the continent – moving through the social and cultural change mirrored by the shifts in agricultural labor. While the durational nature of Tavera’s relationships in Crookston may stand apart from the often episodic, and extractive, dynamics between photographers and their subjects in rural and communities of color, Tavera’s durational practice and its thoughtful and empathetic connection between artist and individual is a distinguishing feature of his photographic work and its broad social impact.
These qualities converge in Eva with Portrait of her Father, Crookston and Quinceañera. As with the artist’s recent series on Latinx veterans in the upper Midwest, Tavera’s work in Crookston balances a use of space, color, and story in such a way that an embodied, intimate presence transcends the medium. These photographs honor culture and lived experience, while looking towards the future. “Although the newer generations are less likely to work in agriculture,” Tavera writes, “our attachment to the land has prevailed and the stories of those travels are still remembered and passed along as resilience tales of proud heritage.”
Tavera emigrated from Mexico City to Minnesota in 1996. The presence of the US/Mexico border – as both a mental construct and a physical boundary – animate his ongoing Borderlands series of documentary photographs. “Every Latino in the United States is heavily marked by the concept of the border, regardless of how we got here,” Tavera told City Pages. “So it was important for me to see it firsthand. I’m not attempting to understand what the border means. It is a very complex area with complex people who share land, who share culture, music, food. Everybody speaks English and Spanish. Everybody has family on both sides.”
Tavera’s work reaches across these imposed divides, and has been widely exhibited in North and South America, and internationally, and is included in the collections of institutions such as the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Plains Art Museum, and the Weisman Art Museum. He is a recipient of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship, Jerome Foundation Travel Award, and a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Tavera, along with partner Tina, are active members and leaders of Grupo Soap del Corazon, one of the longest-running collectives of Latinx artists in the country.