A trip to the International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS) a while back to view the work of American filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders gave two UTRGV professors and a digital photography class an idea.
They could, and would, point their lenses at their own peers and students for an identity project that would emulate Greenfield-Sanders’s The Latino List, with their own collaboration of student photographs.
Dr. Katherine McAllen, assistant professor of Latin American Art History, UTRGV School of Art, and Marilyn Carren, photography lecturer in the School of Art, discussed having a pop-up show of work created by UTRGV students, all in the style of the Greenfield-Sanders exhibit, which was organized by the San Antonio Museum of Art.
The Greenfield-Sanders exhibit, The Latino List, features portraits of influential Latinos and Latinas in America – including Sandra Cisneros, a prominent Mexican-American writer; John Leguizamo, a Colombian-born American actor; and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and Latina associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
McAllen and Carren were certain the premise would have significance for UTRGV students.
“I wanted each student to share their own personal interpretation of The Latino List,” McAllen said. “The great thing about studying art is the creativity it inspires. Each student's interpretation of a work is unique and different, and that original idea is so valuable.”
Students from Carren’s art course discussed other work by Greenfield-Sanders, such as The Black List and The Trans List, which showcased prominent figures within the black and transgender communities.
“My students’ interest inspired and motivated me to try the experiment,” Carren said.
Thus was born The Vaquero List.
The students met at IMAS to begin their projects. They dressed as they wanted to be represented, and had their image made in the style of Greenfield-Sanders. The students took portraits of each other under the guidance of their professors, McAllen and Carren. After viewing the gallery, and inspecting the poses and lighting, the students were photographed together in the foyer of the exhibit.
“I asked the students to write a short paragraph pertaining to their identity, to be displayed alongside their portraits, as was done for The Latino List,” Carren said. “This was instructional for the students, because it illustrated to them the importance of how they see themselves in the here and now.”
Carren had her students imagine how they, too, might become one of the members of the illustrious Latino List by continuing to work hard and look to the future.
McAllen said the students were proud to see the photographs of prominent Latino and Latina leaders celebrated, which helped in the work of the project.
“They also were inspired to think about how to communicate this focus on Latino identity in photographs of their peers and themselves,” McAllen said. “Both The Latino List and The Vaquero List taught these students how the power of images can inspire us to think about who we are and, more importantly, be proud of our upbringing and our accomplishments.”
Fabian Farias, a UTRGV senior history major from Mission, said he typically is the person behind the camera, especially since the birth of his first child. His goal was to leave his comfort zone and become one of the many subjects of this important exhibit. The project helped symbolize what UTRGV was, he said, so he enjoyed the process.
“I believe the overall goal of the project was to show that, although none of us is ‘famous,’ we are what make UTRGV what it is,” Farias said. “We make it a university of students wanting and aspiring to make a difference in our lives by attending college.”
Adelina Agueros, a UTRGV senior from Mercedes working toward a BFA in Graphic Design, said the project opened her eyes to the process of capturing important imagery and being able to tell a story through editing.
“I had never seen Greenfield-Sander’s work before, but I was amazed at the simplicity of his style, which captured the model very casually and personally. I was excited to see if we, as a class, could replicate it,” she said. “Seeing the final product of our hard work just made everything worth it and I absolutely believe that we, as a class, reached the goal.”
The Vaquero List was on display for one night at the IMAS, and The Latino List ran until Jan. 6.
UTRGV plans to bring The Vaquero List to its campus in the future, but plans have not been finalized.