Memories Fading in the Sun

Words by Josue Ramirez
Edited by Abigail Vela

“Si no me falla la memoria” is a saying I’ve heard used for reassurance or as a bumper for error in retelling a story or account. It is a helpful one as, more often than not, memory fails us all, and our past recollections fade, become hazy, or just disappear. The acceptance of this is explored in La Carrera Fading in the Sun, opening at the International Museum of Arts and Science on May 27th by artist Jesus Trevino. 

The Trajectory of an RGV Artist

Jesus Treviño grew up in Brownsville, Texas, visiting his paternal family ranch, La Carrera, near Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in the late 90s through the early 2000s. The visits diminished as he grew older and his relatives moved to the United States.
 

Treviño holds them as dear childhood memories, including creative influences like an uncle who had a talent for recreating anime posters. As a child, drawing and painting seemed mystical to Treviño because he didn’t know about it, but he appreciated it. 

In high school, Treviño was inspired to lean into painting with teachings from Paul Palmenez. He took classes at Texas State Technical College with David Ransom, who broke down painting into a formula which Treviño became very good at in his early artistry. His introductory teachings instilled a deep appreciation for the technical side of constructing a painting.

Latino wearing a black shirt smiling, surrounded by frames of his artwork.
Image of Jesus Trevino.

After high school, the young artist attended the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where he pursued a BA in Studio Art in 2018 and honed his talent in portraiture and figurative painting. The work he accomplished at UTRGV was a glimmer into the immense talent Treviño holds for depicting others and speaking on contemporary issues. If TSC taught him how to paint, UTRGV taught him how to make art. 



He recalls his time at UTRGV as critical to how he overcame the “embarrassment of talking about the border” as a border artist. RGV artist Alex Macias, who leaned into their conversations on sociopolitical issues through portraiture at the time, was a significant resource of inspiration and information for Treviño. 

 

The artist’s work began to reflect place and region, not only through the people he was painting and what adorned them but through their surroundings. Backgrounds and landscapes began to take more of a role in the conversation of his work rather than the subject. Doing so makes the viewer more aware of the relationship between the two together and as separate and individual parts of the composition, which is the relationship to place the artist seeks to explore.  

Treviño took these ideas to his MFA candidacy in Studio Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Miles from home, with such a deeper understanding of his artistry, the artist reflected on the frontera. Treviño curated several exhibitions summarizing his perspective on certain border experiences, including a group show, Between Two Worlds, at the UT Visual Arts Center. 

His work also became more reflective of memories and frontera landscapes, all while tied to the figures and people. Treviño developed his latest series La Carrera Fading in the Sun, as part of his MFA exhibition.

Painting by Jesus Treviño.

Carrera de la Vida

The focus of his 13-piece series alludes to the relationship to fleeting ancestral ties and gives glimpses into intimate memories. It continues the expansion of Treviño’s conversation on space and place and uses the same tools of image interruption, layering, and concealing. 

 

In grad school, he was challenged to push his work by including unconventional mediums, objects that hold history, and harsh techniques like scratching or burning the surface. Some of his portraits implemented this using motor oil to play with the style and add depth to the image and the conversation.

While portraiture is still a characteristic of his work, there is a further departure from that categorization in some of his more narrative paintings—for example, the diptych featuring a truck whose emissions show a sepia-toned scene of youthful memories. 

Painting hanging on an exhibition wall of children playing and the back of a white truck in the lower right corner of the painting.
Painting by Jesus Treviño.

Treviño also defied himself to relearn his childhood memories, his family history, and stories from his parents and grandparents. Through his art practice, he became closer to his family by listening and starting conversations that might have been left unasked. 

 

His curiosity pushed his work and technical capacity for installations. Treviño un-siloed part of himself as he married his music-making and visual artistry. Treviño took those conversations and made a Corrido about a visit to the family ranch, which emanates lightly from an installation of a cistern, a replica of one at the family ranch. 

 

The exhibition references shifting family histories, regional landscapes, and identity through beautifully rendered portraits and visual narratives that honor our partial remembrance of memories and the past.

 

Jesus Treviño is a wonderful example of Rio Grande Valley talent nurtured by amazing art educators at all levels, starting with family. La Carrera Fading in the Sun shows an artist who pushes past mastery of the medium and is sharpening his voice and identity. Treviño does so in an honest manner that acknowledges gaps in the retelling of our experiences and gives a light critique of fine art’s categorization of narratives.

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