THE TITLE OF JUANA ESTRADA HERNÁNDEZ’S first solo museum exhibition, Las semillas, el sol, y los que sacaron a delante (The seeds, the sun, and those that brought me forward), is both poetic and provocative—a fitting name for this selection of prints and drawings.

Opening at the Roswell Museum on September 23, Las semillas represents the second show in an initiative designed to amplify recent graduates from regional colleges and universities. “Engaging with the academic community and focusing on new artists infuses our museum with new ideas,” says Aaron Wilder, curator of collections and exhibitions.

Estrada Hernández, who received a master’s degree of fine arts from the University of New Mexico in 2021, was a natural fit. “Juana’s work is powerful, both visually and conceptually,” says Wilder. “She is working from a place of personal experience, and I think that’s going to really speak to the community.”

Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, Estrada Hernández moved to Denver at age seven with her parents and three sisters, and applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status as a teen. “DACA opened up education opportunities I personally wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she says. “But it doesn’t offer a path to citizenship, comes with a lot of restrictions, and must be renewed frequently.” Families like hers, where documentation status varies, can be separated without warning.

Juana Estrada Hernández, "Maíz is Who You Are, Who We Are," 2022, Lithograph on Paper. Courtesy of the artist.

That tension—between the dreams DACA helped her realize and the underlying fears of its limits—creates an uneasy power in the dozen lithographs, mezzotints, and drawings of Las semillas, which runs through December 17. Approachable elements like piñatas, ears of corn, and cowboys on horseback show tender snapshots of life in Mexico, while other works bristle with anxiety.

In ¡Nopalaso en nombre de nuestras familias! (Nopalazo on behalf of our families!), for example, a man in a hoodie is handcuffed by a pair of immigration police in front of an unmarked bus with blacked-out windows. To the right, a boy aims a slingshot at the agents. A list of directives in Spanish, beginning with Don’t open the door and ending with Have a lawyer ready, are scrawled in the left corner.

“This piece is about the pain of family separation due to mixed or undocumented [citizenship] status,” says Estrada Hernández. “The text in the corner lays out an emergency plan of what to do if ICE comes knocking.”

Even the show’s title hints at the autobiography that’s reflected in her work. “There’s an agricultural angle to it,” says Estrada Hernández, whose father is a landscaper.

She adds, “My dad used to say to my sisters and me, ‘I gathered you like seeds and took you from my home. I planted those seeds somewhere new, and I tended to them, and now I’m watching them grow.’ ”

Read more: The Albuquerque artist tells her immigration story in a beautiful children’s book.

September 23–December 17

Opening reception and artist talk, September 22, 5:30–7 p.m.
Roswell Museum, 1011 N. Richardson Ave., Roswell; 575-624-6744.