Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives
Couple releases book of poems, drawing of border life
By TRAVIS WHITEHEAD, The Brownsville Herald
2010-04-03 22:17:23

McALLEN — The young girl with the cloth bags gazes pristinely from the picture, her charcoal and conte crayon image conveying a sense of innocence.

"In her right ear she wears a pink stud/her lips are sealed and will not share the secrets" reads the poem by Steven Schneider titled "Six-Year-Old Street Vendor" in the book "Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives," published by Wings Press. The poem accompanies the image created by his wife Reefka Schneider. The book was released Friday at Nuevo Santander Gallery, 717 N. Main St., during the monthly McAllen Art Walk. The book is composed of 25 images with accompanying poems.

"Most of the poems were written in response to the drawings, and I was trying to in some instances to tell a narrative or a story in poetry about the subjects of my wife's drawings," said Schneider, a professor at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. "There's a range of styles and tones in the poems reflective of the diverse range of subjects in her drawings," said Schneider, director of New Programs and Special Projects in the College of Arts and Humanities.

"Some poems are talking about the social problems here on the border, poverty, illiteracy, kids on a street rather than in school," Schneider said. "And some of the other poems by way of balance are much more celebratory of the culture and of the music and of the region."

The pictures indeed reveal a broad range of people: a man with a loop of garlic around his neck, a strapping mariachi with a violin, an older woman with a little girl, a child with an accordion. Each has a poignant story in verse.

"It is a long way vaquero/from the cattle you worked on the ranch/Outside Veracruz," reads a poem titled "Vaquero de Veracruz" that accompanies the charcoal and conte drawing of the same name. The image on an orange background depicts a handsome young man with strong cheekbones and broad chin, his thick black hair hanging from beneath his hat.

"I see you here," continues the poem. "In your soft, white Stetson hat/Shiny leather Western boots/Your blue jeans and construction worker shirt/A long way/From the chaparral/And the saddle horses/A long way/From the campfires/Under the starry Mexican sky." Reefka Schneider said she uses conte because that is the closest thing to what many of the old masters used in their artwork.

"It's a mixture of clays and chalks," said the artist. "I'm trying to express the soul of each person I draw. And by expressing their soul, I'm hoping that people will connect on the universal level of life and thus, you know, be open to cross-cultural understanding and seeing the humanity of the people of the border where we live. That's what I hope my pictures portray."

Steven Schneider said he and his wife are trying to "put a human face on the sorrows and joys of the people who live along the border. In a time when violence and drugs have created an atmosphere of fear, our work shows the aspirations and beauty of the culture and people who live and work here."

© Copyright 2010 Freedom Communications. All Rights Reserved
Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives
Fronteras: Dibjunado las vidas fronterizas
ISBN: 978-0-916727-65-9, Hardback, 64 pp. 19.95 Wings Press.
Read what other authors have to say about Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives