Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Three Kentucky Hispanic curators probe human pain behind United State´s festering immigration crisis

Photograph by Lucia A. Gomez

“The art in ´Crossings/Travesias´ creates awareness and builds community. We go beyond thought into the experiential, displaying with depth and clarity the struggle of the Latino/a-Chicano/a community, provoking dialogue about immigration and migration, focusing on how our system affects people´s lives.” 

Marta Miranda, co-curator of Lexington Art League´s (LAL) 25 March – 14 MayCrossings/Travesias” exhibition, Loudoun House, Lexington, Kentucky.

Digital large format collage by Jesus Macarena-Avila

Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez pleaded with her bosses for a water break.

She had worked nine straight hours in a vineyard non-stop in 99-degree California sun without shade or relief.

Her overlords refused.

Maria, age 18, died later that day, one of many casualties of America´s immigration crisis.

Detail of Skeleton installation by Diane Kahlo

For Maria Isavel to have crossed the border, she may have also been raped and robbed.

Lexington Spanish-language newspaper La Voz reports 6 of 10 females making the “crossing” from Mexico to the United States are raped and robbed by bandits.

These grave injustices (and others) deeply impact the show´s three curators.

´Feminicde´ and the "Wall of Memories: Las Desaparecidas de Juarez"

Co-curator Diane Kahlo, Lexington, Kentucky full-time artist and third-generation Hispanic American, researched this and scores of similar stories as part of a two-year Kentucky state arts grant and project.

She has painted about 100 small portraits of women murdered in Juarez, Mexico, all victims of feminicide, as Kahlo called it.

She paints the portraits from among 150 photographs of the murdered women.

Diane Kahlo´s Skeleton installation (5 ft. x 7 ft.)

Kahlo opens her "Wall of Memories: Las Desaparecidas de Juarez" exhibition in October or November at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

One of Kahlo´s paintings appears in “Crossings/Travesias,” “Homenaje a Maria Isavel.” 
The painting makes Maria Isavel, who died in 2008, a “metaphor for the exploitation and inhumane treatment of thousands of people who pick our vegetables and fruits and slaughter our chickens, so that we can have cheap prices,” Kahlo said in a Monday phone interview.

Other participating artists:

·        Lucia A. Gomez, Houston, Texas;
·        Delilah Montoya & Orlando Lara (video collaboration), Ithaca, New York;
·        Fabio Rodriguez, St. Louis, Missouri;
·        Sonia Baez-Hernandez, Miami, Florida;
·        Mari Mujica, Louisville;
·        Mary Carothers, Louisville;
·        Daniel Carona, Lexington;
·        Agustin Zarate, Lexington;
·        Jesus Macarena-Avila, Chicago;
·        Andres Cruz, Lexington;
Detail from sculpture and installation by Mary Carothers
·        Marta Miranda, Louisville.

Joining Kahlo as co-curators, fellow artist-activists: Cuban – born Marta Miranda, president and CEO of the non-profit Center for Women and Families, Louisville, and Andres Cruz, a native of Costa Rica and since 2003, editor-publisher of La Voz, the Ohio Valley´s only Spanish-English newspaper, a bi-weekly.

Miranda creates textile art; Cruz is a photographer.

“Crossings/Travesias”  includes about 50 works: installations, photographs, oil paintings, mixed-media, masks, metal sculpture, paper Mache, spray-painted images by an urban artist, who can usually be found custom illustrating car hoods, said LAL exhibitions director Becky Alley in a Monday phone interview.

“Immigration is a most important and politically charged topic; our job is not to convince anyone to think one way or another politically but to present the human story,” she added.

Fabio Rodriguez

Curators harness their history of arts activism

The curators previously worked together as pro-gender equality and anti-violence activists, sometimes morphing into performance art with peaceful protest, like handing out bottles of water to people, symbolizing the hundreds of Mexicans who die from dehydration each year trying to make the crossing.

Large format photograph by Delilah Montoya
It´s impossible to avoid merging art with politics, especially if you are passionate about the Mexico – United States immigration issue.
As Cruz wrote in a recent La Voz editorial:

“…we must address the root causes of non-authorized immigration: inadequate legal means for working and immigrating to the United States, a deportation-driven strategy that focuses on numbers rather than genuine threats to national security, and a failure to enact a consistent and balanced federal plan for regulating immigration.”

Painted bike sculpture by Jorge Jimenez & Agustin Zarate

Cruz and his co-curators protest against a inhumane and unjust policies and practices such as investing billions in barriers and punitive deportation measures, or laws like Arizona´s controversial statute that originally pemitted police to stop anyone and ask for papers, a regular drag net.

The US Supreme Court killed that part of the law. But the rest remains.
Proponents of the Arizona approach tried unsuccessfully to push through a similar law in Kentucky, said Kahlo.

Federal appellate courts still wrestle with the Arizona law.

Meanwhile, the US is home to an estimated 25 million illegals, most of them Hispanic.

The Hispanic population of Lexington has doubled in 10 years, Kahlo, Alley and Miranda agreed.

About three years ago, the curators met in Chicago with fellow activist, Jesus Macarena-Avila.

“Jesus urged us to propose his kind of exhibit it LAL in Lexington, really inspiring us,” Kahlo said. He told curators they would succeed.

Mask by Fabio Rodrigue
Has the exhibit accomplished its mission?

An emphatic, “Yes!” said Miranda.
“We had he best crowd ever (at the Loundoun House), more than 400, and many brown and black people.  Part of the whole purpose and goal--including doing workshops with kids--is to build community and awareness,” she added.

Minature portraits by Diane Kahlo
Incredibly diverse communities showed up for the opening, and they seemed extremely impressed, Miranda said. 

“Sometimes, people told me just how painful it was to look at some of the images.”

Kahlo put it this way: “I believe in the power of art to create social change or dialogue. 

"Art has a way of drawing people in, who can be enticed to look, think and be brought into the conversation by their reaction to the art, which addresses multiple issues.”

Rock on and practice peace and love.

Stefan, the ArtTraveler ™

Come to Andalusia for a walking holiday or week-long sculpture or mosaics workshop. See: www.spanjeanderes.nl and www.competafinearts.com.

Moorish castle, Montánchez, Extremadura

You can reach me at stefanvandrake@gmail. com or by calling 34 915 067 703 or from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349. 

I am always glad to hear from readers, especially to learn of arts news tips, background information, story ideas which may interest us all. 

(All photographs courtesy of artists and Lexington Arts League, except Moorish castle, by Stefan van Drake.)                           

1 comment: