Breaking News
More () »

Meet the Denton artist and DACA recipient using his talent to shine light on the undocumented community

“Being able to live in this constant state of anxiety and ambiguity… they’re incredibly courageous people, and I want to portay it how I see them,” Vazques said.

DENTON, Texas — At a glance, they’re ordinary people in everyday life situations.

Beyond the surface, Denton artist Jose Vazques is bringing the undocumented community out of the shadows.

“A lot of these people are heroes to me,” said Vazques. 

Vazques, who graduated from the University of North Texas, recently showcased his art at Richland College’s Brazos Gallery during an exhibit titled “No Pasa Nada.”

The Spanish phrase means "nothing will happen," or "there’s no problem."

It’s the message the artist has told himself repeatedly over the last several years. 

Born in Mexico, Vazques, a recipient of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), has lived in limbo ever since the Obama-era program faced legal scrutiny during the Trump Administration. Every two years, he’s required to apply for renewal.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, DACA shields nearly 600,000 people brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. 

Vazques didn’t fully grasp the fact that he was undocumented until he got older.

“It was heartbreaking thing to find out I’m not a citizen,” he said. 

Reality set in when the program came under threat during his college year. The program is still in a state of limbo. This week, the program went before a Texas judge for debate.

The judge, who previously questioned the program’s legality, is looking at a revised version of it.

“It’s just extremely dehumanizing,” Vazques said. “It feels like I’m in some rental agreement with the U.S. government. It’s just tiring to have your entire identity politicized like that, and it just got to a point where I was at home freaking out whether or not I’m gonna be here much longer.”

As he tried to juggle school and anxieties surrounding status in the U.S., Vazques decided to switch his major to art.

He sat at a nearby Home Depot and observed day laborers as they waited for their next opportunity to work.

One by one, he learned their names, listened to their stories and painted their faces.

Painting their portraits became a form of coping with the unknown while connecting with his community. 

In each painting, he portrays migrant workers caught between stages of uncertainty.

“Being able to live in this constant state of anxiety and ambiguity… they’re incredibly courageous people, and I want to portay it how I see them,” said Vazques. 

Through brightly-colored portraits and everyday-life scenarios, Vazques aims to highlight their humanity. For him, it’s about shedding light on the issues those who are undocumented to create understanding. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out