Behind the Scenes of Jaime Guerrero's New Exhibition

Award-winning glass artist Jaime Guerrero’s solo exhibition, Cuando El Río Suena, opens October 4 at Pittsburgh Glass Center, bringing to life the experiences of migrants and refugees and the struggles they face crossing the southern border of the United States. The exhibition will feature over a dozen intricate glass sculptures of children who made this perilous journey, along with environmental installations and audiovisuals to transport the atmosphere of the border into the gallery.

Guerrero created the sculptures during his 9-month artist residency at PGC, where he meticulously sculpted and assembled them piece by piece. Individual body parts such as the arms, legs and shoes were blown and hand sculpted first by Guerrero and a team of artists. Guerrero’s years of experience are evident in the expressive and individual faces on each child. Once all of the parts are created individually, he assembles the life-size sculpture. Each piece took several weeks to create, with some taking as long as a month depending on the specific subject and level of detail. 

Cuando El Río Suena is the culmination of a concept Guerrero has been developing for years. In 2017, he exhibited a smaller series of glass children titled Broken Dreams at the Craft In America Center in Los Angeles as part of a multi-artist show centered on Latino culture and identity. This show then traveled to Massachusetts, where it was displayed at the Fuller Craft Center. At both of these shows, visitors were encouraged to share their own stories of immigration, leading to the collection of over 300 letters detailing their different experiences. These letters will be on display alongside Guerrero’s sculptures.

Additionally, Cuando El Río Suena features an installation of clothing collected by Tom Kiefer, a photographer known for his works documenting the clothes, shoes, food, and personal items confiscated from immigrants taken into custody by border agents. These garments have only ever featured in photographs and have never been shown in an exhibition.

With its large variety of pieces and displays, Cuando El Río Suena is Guerrero’s most fully realized artistic statement on the border crisis yet. Guerrero was able to focus on developing his ideas more fully as an artist in residence at Pittsburgh Glass Center, where he was free to make use of the world-class glass studios and get assistance from talented Pittsburgh area glass artists. This residency program is open for any artist to apply, and offers access to PGC’s studios and materials, as well as a stipend and the opportunity to exhibit one’s work. Artists in residence are encouraged to hone their skills in this focused environment where they can work towards creating their vision.

By Simone Traub, Pittsburgh Glass Center Intern

Cuando El Río Suena opens Friday, October 4, 2019 and is on view through January 26, 2020. The exhibition is supported in part by The Pittsburgh Foundation and the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass. Video by Alva Media Company.

Learn more about PGC's Artist Residency Program