Conservation of "Border Crossing": Iconic sculpture at ISU is undergoing specialized treatments

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Conservation of "Border Crossing": Iconic sculpture at ISU is undergoing specialized treatments
First installed on ISU’s Central Campus in 1999, Jiménez’s Border Crossing was originally placed in visual conversation with Christian Petersen’s nearby Marriage Ring as part of a temporary exhibition on family resiliency.



AMES, IOWA.- Border Crossing (Cruzando el Rio Bravo), a totem-like sculpture of a man carrying a woman on his shoulders as she holds a crying infant, was temporarily removed from Iowa State University’s (ISU) Central Campus in December of 2022 for conservation. The polychrome fiberglass sculpture by renowned artist Luis Jiménez (American, 1940–2006) is more than ten feet tall and requires specialized treatments to repair and fill voids that have formed in the fiberglass due to weathering. The inner portion is being filled with an epoxy to prevent future cracking and deterioration of the clear coat. The failing clear coat is being removed and areas of concern or loss are being repainted to bring Border Crossing back to its original state. Treatments are being handled by McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, Inc. in Oberlin, Ohio. Once finished, the sculpture will return to ISU.

First installed on ISU’s Central Campus in 1999, Jiménez’s Border Crossing was originally placed in visual conversation with Christian Petersen’s nearby Marriage Ring as part of a temporary exhibition on family resiliency. With support from the campus community, donors, and with approval from the artist himself, the sculpture soon became a permanent and iconic addition to ISU’s Central Campus as part of the University Museums Art on Campus Collection. This sculpture is a memorial to the journey the artist’s father and grandparents took during immigration to the United States across the Rio Grande in the 1920s. Luis Jiménez was born in the US as a result of the harrowing trip and sacrifices made by his family, illustrating both resiliency and determination.

Lynette Pohlman, University Museums Director and Chief Curator, says: Luis Jiménez’s Border Crossing is a tremendously important public work of art in our Art on Campus Collection, not only due to the reputation of the artist himself, but for the Hispanic cultural representation and voice the sculpture brings to campus. By conserving this iconic sculpture, we are ensuring the legacy of the Art on Campus Collection and its ability to instruct and inspire those on campus for years to come. The conservation of this particular sculpture ensures students, faculty, and all visitors to Iowa State’s campus will continue to encounter a diverse range of artists and cultures on their campus.

The timeline for the return of Border Crossing is dependent upon the completion of the conservation work, supply chains, shipping schedules, and the newly approved construction plans for repairing LeBaron Hall.

Border Crossing (Cruzando el Rio Bravo), 1989 by Luis Jiménez (American, 1940–2006). Fiberglass with urethane finish. Purchased by the College of Consumer and Family Sciences. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2000.67.

Luis Jiménez was born in El Paso, Texas in 1940. After high school he attended the University of Texas, Austin and Cuidad Universitaria, Mexico City, Mexico. Upon completion of his studies, he moved to New York City in 1966 where he assisted Seymour Lipton (American, 1903–1986), an accomplished abstract experimental sculptor whose sculpture is also at Iowa State. Jiménez is known for his large polychrome fiberglass sculptures of Southwestern and Hispanic themes that captured the everyday person as a hero.

As an artist, Jiménez was fascinated with popular culture, relating his art to ordinary experiences. The art produced by Jiménez is very personal and he established himself as a role model for people both inside and outside of the Latino community. Jiménez was named a Goodwill Ambassador by the City of Houston and was awarded the Governor's Award in New Mexico in 1993. In 1998 Jiménez became a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Texas for his influential art. He died in June 2006 at his studio in Hondo, New Mexico.










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