Often while traveling the idea of a place, or what’s written in a book about it, is far different from the reality when you actually get there. El Paso is not a place most people living in the North East probably spend a lot of time thinking about. I certainly didn’t think twice about it until I found myself flying there over the Christmas holiday.
If i’m being honest El Paso, and probably all of Texas is more an idea to people who haven’t been there than a reality, particularly if you come from my neck of the woods. So while I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I got there, it still exceeded all of my expectations. In particular, the El Paso Art Museum which kind of blew my mind. It had not a just a solid permanent collect and an amazing Cuidad Juárez – El Paso Art Biennial 2015, which featured a fantastic collection of art, but it was also open to the public for free with an optional donation.
Obviously there is much more to El Paso than that an art museum and the downtown area, but with only a few short hours to explore, I spent most of my time eating and wandering around the Downtown El Paso area. It was interesting to stand at the much debated border and watch people come and go on their way to and from work, as if it was just another part of their day which clearly it was. It was fun to walk through the main downtown shopping street. The air was filled with music and Spanish, and the street were lined with shops with displays that spilled onto the sidewalks and made you feel like you were in Mexico. There is a huge highway going through the city. It’s kind of like Rte 1 except it has lots of overpasses and as drive along you will see painted pilons and graffiti art on the streets interspersed between shopping complexes that house familiar places like Marshalls, Barnes and Nobles and Whole foods etc… . From the elevated road you can get a great view of the city as you are driving and watch the buildings of El Paso blend indistinguishably into Cuidad Juarez which lies just streets away in the distance.
It was very different from cities here in some ways. For example, there were bilingual signs, abundant tacos and the look was noticeably more Latino. However striking the differences there are also always similarities as well. It was more a questions of flavour. Urban sprawl is urban sprawl whether its on a mountain, at sea level, or on a plain. The city looks and feels like its in a state of renewal, and that it is evolving and trying to embrace the many cultures that live within it in its own way. So, I am a little sad that I didn’t get to spend very much time exploring the city and getting a closer look at the arts scene, or renewal initiatives or just find time to eat in more different places.
For now, for this first visit, I’m happy that my experience was such a positive one. If I back I would certainly be looking to connect with other aspects of the city, the people and most likely the arts scene and now I can look forward to that.
*All of these images are straight from my Instagram feed.
The exterior of the El Paso Art Museum. “Identitad Geométrica” by Oswaldo Sagástegui is in the foreground.
Museum atrium. Amazingly entrance to the El Paso Art Museum was free. Donations were optional.
The work on the ground floor was brightly coloured, abstract and contemporary.
There was more than just contemporary art though, there were also galleries dedicated to more classic styled paintings, and different types of work from artists that explored life in different areas of the country.
There was an exhibit on the main floor of the work of American artist Hal Marcus. Much of his work was abstract, brightly colored mixed media.
What really kind of blew my mind was the exhibit on the second floor of the work included in the Cuidad Juárez – El Paso Biennial 2015.
The Work was a vibrant and luminous collection of work from artists who live and work on border. “Veladora” by Beliz Iristay is a mixed media installation made with recycled candles.
A lot of the work focused on duality and explored political, social or cultural issues. “Somos 43/We are 43” are a series of screen prints on paper by Nabil Gobzalez.
All the work was so different and so dynamic, both individually and as group, that it was really impressive to see it together. “The light and the Shadow/La Luz y la Sombra” by Kristin Bauer. Acrylic, aerosol and wood.
Leaving the museum the streets were quiet but Just out side of the museum there was this beautiful open space.
Parts of the downtown area looked like it was being redeveloped and buildings were being worked on.
I was told that the bar in the Hotel Camino Real considered one of the most beautiful bars in the United States and with the wood interior and the delicately coloured light filtering in through the stained glass I can’t see how it wouldn’t be.
Street view in black and white.
As far as I can tell this was is just screaming for an awesome mural. I feel like Os Gememos would go nuts over it.
I feel like we spent a lot of time driving under overpasses.
Post snow, shot of the sky.
I love store signs and I love street photography, so of course this happened. I got kick out of the feet coming out of the bottom of the sign.
There were lots of signs promoting healtier lifestyles, driving less and recycling. I thougth this was nice design and had a good message.
I feel like Elvis can probably sell anything. Even consigment jewelry and loans.
We really don’t see a lot of public phones anywhere these days. So, this was an exciting “sighting.”
Loved this front lit building with the storm clouds in the background.
Another steet view, Looking toward the border.. Never got old.
One thing we don’t see in the Northeast is this type of front of store displays. I’ve seen them in a lot of other parts of the world i’ve visited and I saw this and loved it. It also kind of reminded me of Robert Palmer. Although I will say the fact that they’re headless female bodies is really creepy.
“Notary Public, Translations, Apostille, Weddings” and you can get bread in doorway. I never see this type of storefront in the Northeast
Wall details. Loved the colours.
I imagine some little kids somewhere going crazy getting these.
Evidently I brought the snow (sorry) and It snowed a good six inches one of the nights I was there. Since it was heavier than usual snowfall everyone was kind of freaking out, but it melted quickly and by mid afternoon the roads were pretty clear.
Actually everything looked really pretty covered in snow.
We drove past this coffee shop made out of shipping containers but didn’t stop! Sadly when we went back to check it out it wasn’t open because of the snow… next time.
One thing I really appreciated as someone who is always being asked for directions, is the abundant map kiosks everywhere. It wasn’t just enough to have maps though, they nicely colour coded it for people who were visiting. Thank you.
This bag store was amazingly full of bags, of pretty much every shape, colour and size I can imagine and the ladies inside were so nice and patient.
Found some awesome slightly weird, Frida Kahlo coin purses inside. I think she would totally love them.
Shopping on racks outside of the store is so much fun.
Only 19.99… both hilarious and a bit creepy as well.
Hats for sale.
Loved this little park. What a great structure.
Definitely one of my favourite things I saw while there. This sign just won me over. I didn’t buy any Levi’s though.
Behold the magnificent Snow Palm.