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A Tapestry of Identity, Migration, and Culture in Contemporary Jewelry - La Frontera




The captivating world of "La Frontera" – an extraordinary collection that transcends the boundaries of traditional jewelry, weaving narratives of culture, identity, and migration along the U.S.–Mexico border features over 85 works from international contemporary jewelry artists, to take you on a profound journey into the heart of the border region. Through the lens of jewelry as a personal and symbolic medium, "La Frontera" explores the complexities of this physical and geopolitical divide, inviting its viewers to reflect on themes such as home, migration, landscape, and identity. I was deeply inspired by all of the art pieces, as they all represent a beautiful yet moving message. 


One piece that stood out to me was Nancy Moyer’s “Golden Ladder” from the series Border Fence, 2017, composed of oxidized sterling silver, vermeil, and resin-clad digital print. This empowering sculpture depicts a large ring, with the bottom containing a person climbing a ladder to cross a large fence. I instantly recognized the use of silver to convey almost realistic photographic images, making the sculpture extremely empowering. Moyer says, “I want my work to be ‘about something,’ and leaning towards figurative art, which was my aesthetic foundation of silver.” 


Another artist who uses similar silver material is Fernanda Barba’s “UNIDENTIFIED MIGRANT, 2012.” At first glance, I couldn’t immediately tell the curvilinear thin silver lines constituted an intricate fingerprint. It was only when Barba expressed that the “piece honors all those people who, when they die, lose their dignity by ending up with a description on their ID: UNIDENTIFIED MIGRANT” that I fully understood the sculpture. I noticed a physical balance in the object of the fingerprint, but also a metaphorical balance that “each of them [migrants] has to maintain during their journey to stay alive in the pursuit of their dream.” 


When migrants integrate into our community, Leslie Shershow’s “Fringe” celebrates the cross-cultural imagery of the cultures of San Diego and Tijuana. This beautiful luminescent necklace represents the discovery of iconography and the richness of the cultures associated with it. Through the bright and colorful glass, different cultural symbols are strung together. Contrastingly, there is a black grid that represents the border wall, casting a dark shadow amidst the colorful glass. I love that this piece is both a physical and metaphorical representation of the beauty in cross-sectional cultures while addressing political issues.


Overall, La Frontera’s exquisitely crafted stories resonate with many around Balboa Park. From Nancy Moyer's empowering Golden Ladder to Fernanda Barba's poignant homage to unidentified migrants and Leslie Shershow's celebration of cross-cultural imagery in "Fringe," each piece serves as a testament to the power of jewelry in conveying profound narratives. The collaboration of artists in this exhibition, curated with dedication by Lorena Lazard and Mike Holmes, breathes life into the borderlands, reminding us that art transcends boundaries, fostering connections and understanding. "La Frontera" stands not only as an artistic triumph but as a bridge that spans cultures and invites contemplation on the shared human experience. 


As these stories continue their journey, may they inspire conversations that bridge the gaps between us, fostering a deeper appreciation for the beauty found in diversity and the stories that connect us all.






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