South Texas art professor finds creative way to address border issues

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A South Texas art professor is finding new meaning in his work after teaching his students about the significance of art media and ways to convey a message through his drawings.

His latest piece paints a picture that is reflective of his students and is leaving them with something to think about. 

“You’re not art majors, but one day you may find yourself in some type of social setting, and just by looking at the media that the artist used, by being able to identify the media, you will understand the process,” South Texas College Professor Luis Corpus told his students during an art lecture.

Professor Corpus is giving students another reason to appreciate art during his lectures, and show his students where he got his inspiration for his latest work.

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“When I saw you guys, I thought, ‘You know what? That’s what these guys are,'” Corpus explained as he showed a series of sketches of young Hispanic men and women.

The portraits showcase unfamiliar people with familiar faces.

“They embody that part of our community that is young, the youth, that is vibrant, highly intelligent, that are driven. They hold jobs, no crime,” Corpus added.

The drawings were sketched in an unconventional way. By burning branches of native mesquite and using water from the Rio Grande River, Corpus is trying to convey something.

“It’s not just material, it’s material that defines us, that has a been a part of our ancestors, that’s been a part of DACA recipients,” kinesiology major Daniel Hernandez said.

Before Professor Corpus explained to Hernandez and the rest of his art appreciation class whose faces he drew, and why he was using materials from the border, no one thought that some of the subjects in his art were people illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents as children and who’ve been shielded from deportation through the now-rescinded DACA program.

“These kids that have been here in the United States since they were little babies, I mean, they’ll stand up every single day and put their hand in their hearts and they’ll recite the pledge of allegiance,” Professor Corpus said.

Corpus plans to display a complete version of this untitled project locally in November; portraits that are already resonating with his first critics.

“By seeing this, well, yes, I do feel for them. Like, you want everyone to have the same opportunity you have,” student Ana Garza said.

“Everyone should know at least a little bit about everywhere to get a better feel around them, to understand each other better,” classmate Juan Rios added.

If there is one thing Professor Corpus seeks to teach this group of non-art majors, it's that there’s more to a piece of art than meets the eye.