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South Texas Souls

Documenting the region’s unique traditions

Artist: Jenelle Esparza

Project: “South Texas Souls”

Description: Visual artist Jenelle Esparza’s family has resided in Texas, by way of Mexico and Spain, for several generations. They have lived through the many shifts in cultures that culminate in her identity as Tejana. Through photography and textiles, Esparza examines the lesser-known history of cotton and labor in South Texas, and explores the parallelism between landscapes and humans as witnesses and records of history. Her work in cotton textiles stems from her family lineage in the fields, and her conceptual artwork finds inspiration in her photographs of home, which includes this series: “South Texas Souls.”

Over the years, Esparza has brought her camera along on family visits and road trips to Premont and Falfurrias; further north to Atascosa; and as far south as Roma, where she has an ancestral connection. A history of territorial conflicts and adaptation of customs has defined the region as culturally rich. The photographs in “South Texas Souls” document the resulting uniqueness of the traditions in South Texas—small, intimate glimpses into lived experiences that highlight a complex and under-told history of Texas.

Jenelle Esparza

Jenelle Esparza is an image-based artist who was born in the coastal city of Corpus Christi, TX. She attended the University of Texas at San Antonio and received her BFA in photography in 2010. Esparza has exhibited nationally in institutions such as The DePaul Art Museum in Chicago, IL; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Momentary in Bentonville, AR; and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She is the recipient of numerous honors including 2015 National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) Artist Grant and the summer 2018 Artpace International Artist Residency. Her work is also included in the permanent collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art. She lives and works in San Antonio and is co-founder of Presa House Gallery.