San Antonio Current / Laura Morales

We all have our burdens to bear — sometimes physically and sometimes emotionally. Evoking the title of Texas-based author Tim O’Brien’s famous 1990 novel, Laredo artist Gil Rocha seeks to capture those things and feelings in his new exhibition The Things We Carry.

“We all carry things, we carry things in pockets and bags, sometimes in baskets and boxes,” Rocha said in an online artist statement. “Most things we carry in our minds, but the ‘heaviest’ things we carry in our hearts.”

The Things We Carry will be on view at Presa House by appointment August 7-29, as well as via a virtual tour on August 10. Individual works are available for sale on the gallery’s website.

To mark the exhibition’s opening, Austin-based trio Easy Compadre will give a livestreamed performance on Facebook.

Rocha was born and raised in Laredo and studied fine arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1999. His work centers on the political and social conflicts around the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of his pieces pay homage to his Mexican-American identity and incorporate “Spanglish” phrases.

The exhibition includes structure made of a variety of discarded everyday objects and portrays narratives of things we carry physically and within. Rocha said he was inspired by the evolution and people of Laredo, from the locals to the people from “El Otro Lado.”

“New stores open, but many close, and traffic fluctuates, however, something remains: people carrying things,” Rocha said. “It gives me great pleasure to observe people and piece fictional stories about them based on how they dress and how they walk, especially how they carry their belongings.”

Laredo has also faced drug-related violence that Rocha said emotionally scars people on both sides of the border.

“Many of my current works conform to imaginary portraits based on border personas. As a result, it has left violence and death lingering in everyone’s mind,” he continued. “The feeling of tension and vulnerability is the precise impression I seek to capture in my work, and this is my way of coping with life on the border.”

Free, On View by Appointment August 7-29, Presa House Gallery, presahousegallery@gmail.com