Four Local Artists Recognized in Exhibition Featuring Immigrant Stories

Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

Four local artists have been selected for the third installation of the 2023 Houston Endowment Jones Artist Awards Program, a distinction created to recognize local emerging artists and reflect the many stories and perspectives of Greater Houston’s residents. Nela Garzón, Lorena Molina, Sneha Bhavsar, and Marcos Hernández Chávez will showcase their work in the Houston Endowment’s headquarters in a collaborative installation entitled Where is Home?.

The installation reflects the concept of home not as a fixed, physical location, but as a sense of belonging. Through a variety of mediums, the artists question their understanding of home and invoke a complex interplay of culture, memory, and identity. Featured works explore stories of migration and displacement as the artists recount their own personal stories, give voice to others, and acknowledge the extraordinary resiliency required in making home anew.

“Houston’s greatest asset is its immense diversity, and this installation provides a window into the journeys many residents have taken to call Houston home,” said Ann B. Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment. “It’s an honor to recognize the outstanding talents of these four artists and provide an opportunity for their voices and stories to be seen and heard.”

Houston Endowment has supported the region’s thriving arts scene since its founding by Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937. With the creation of the Jones Artist Awards Program, it strives to strengthen the robustness of local arts and provide additional opportunities for showcasing emerging talent.

The inaugural exhibition, entitled Salvation is my heart on display, featured works by Shavon Morris, Jakayla Monay, Raul Rene Gonzalez, and Jessica Phillip in spring/summer 2023. A second installation in summer/fall 2023 featured the work of Corey De’Juan Sherrard Jr. in Songbook for Black Constellations, For Trio. Works included in Where is Home? are:

Nela Garzón
Runners; Pathway to Poland; Diaspora; Pathway to Kangaten

Nela Garzón’s work draws in the viewer with vibrant colors and an approachable visual language based on folk art and traditional crafts. A closer look reveals an incisive message about the impacts of global diasporas, migration, and violations of human rights.

In her Runners series, Nela plays on the dual meaning of the word runner — referring to those who run, as in refugees, as well as a type of rug. These Runners are tufted and each has decorative trim specific to the geographic location depicted.

Nela’s Runners series creates awareness about contemporary geopolitical issues, showing people who are forced to flee from war and violence. In Pathway to Poland, a Ukrainian woman and a nightingale — Ukraine’s national bird — flee the claws of a bear representing Russia. In Diaspora, refugees from Afghanistan are depicted. In Pathway to Kangaten, women from South Sudan are shown on their way to Kangaten, Ethiopia.

Nela, originally from Colombia, lives and works in Houston.

Lorena Molina
Uno no es como el Otro; Ofrenda; Finca; Papa

Working in photography, video, performance, and installation, Lorena Molina explores identity in the margins. For her, this is not only where violence and pain happens, but it is also a place for resisting and thriving. While she expresses an ache for the sights, smells, and sounds of El Salvador, her definition of home is deeply layered and grows more profound with every new location she lives in, creating, in her words, “a home full of slashes and semicolons and love in all the places.” 

In Uno no es como el Otro, Lorena shows mismatched objects that define a home in the margins. In Ofrenda, she presents mangos in symbolic honor of people loved and lost. In Finca, we see a photo from a visit to her father’s family farm that hangs in her Cincinnati studio, a layering of places. And, finally, in Papa, she captures a portrait of her father taken when reunited after 14 years apart.

Lorena, originally from El Salvador, has lived across the U.S. She moved to Houston in 2021.

Sneha Bhavsar
Stories Incarnate: The Refugee Journey

Through Stories Incarnate: The Refugee Journey, Sneha Bhavsar combines interviews of six Houston-area refugees with paintings that illustrate each refugee’s journey and the circumstances that led them to flee their country of origin in search of safety, freedom, and opportunity. Countries include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Vietnam, Iraq, Venezuela, Cambodia, and Afghanistan.

The interviews are deeply personal, painful, and raw, showing strength and perseverance. The paintings are understated with soft veils of watercolor and figures in outline. The animations are subtle and provide a rhythmic visualization to the story, as if rocking back and forth to hold the viewer steady.

Sneha’s goal is to inspire compassion, acceptance, and acts of kindness. She recorded the interviews in early 2022 and has reproduced them with the permission of each participant. 

Sneha, originally from California, lives and works in Houston.

Marcos Hernández Chávez
El baile de los que sobran; La cena del año viejo

Through fiber-based works and watercolor paintings, Marcos Hernández Chávez reflects on his formative years spent on his grandparents’ rancho in North Central Mexico.

In El baile de los que sobran and La cena del año viejo, Marcos sketches scenes from family celebrations. They connote a charm and nostalgia inherent in reunions as well as revisiting experiences of childhood.

In Los Dos Amigos I and II, Marcos uses string to depict an image he captured in a photograph at a northside park in Houston. It portrays two men on horseback with fishing rods. In these men, he saw himself — he felt that through this pastime, they were attempting to recapture a sense of home.

Marcos, originally from Mexico, lives and works in Houston.

The public is encouraged to visit for more details and images of the included works. Images can also be downloaded here. Weingarten Art Group is conducting an open call for 2024 Jones Artist Awards through November 29.