Monday, November 22, 2010

People With No Names - The Undocumented #40

This man came from Mexico and is a Native American. He owns a Mexican restaurant and introduced me to " an immigrant who really had a hard time ". He came from Bhutan by way of refugee life in Nepal. If I had not been introduced, and talked to him, I would have assumed that he was from countries south of the U.S. We can never assume.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

People With No Names - The Undocumented #39

"Lettuce Pickers" oil on canvas 15x21". I was flying from the N.W to the S.W. last Monday and noticed an article in the airline magazine about Yuma, Arizona being the 'lettuce capitol of the world'. The article showed pictures of people eating gourmet luches right IN the fields...lunches of fresh greens and veggies. Food ingredients, that they had selected during pre-lunch tours, magically appeared on their plates. The article was trying to drum up more foodie tourism and the photos looked very Napa-ish. The promoters claim that rigorous care is taken to keep the fields "clean and uncontaminated"..."if a dog wanders into a particular field, they don't harvest it". Which brings me to my painting. In a small, far-away photo, showing lettuce pickers, the caption claims that it takes 40,000 pickers a day to keep up with the lettuce harvest!!! ERK! I quickly read and reread the article...hoping for info on these 40,000 workers. There is no info. They are clearly beside the point. I want to know where they come from. I want to know if Cesar Chavez's workers rights are protecting them. I want to know if their living conditions are hygenic...because they want only the "cleanest" conditions in their fields.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

People With No Names - The Undocumented #38

If I had to title this I would say that it is "Papered People". I was having dinner at a friends recently when I realized that 3 of the 8 people at the dinner table were immigrants to this country. Fortunately, all 3 have "Papers" or citizenship...(although I doubt any of them carry them in the car with them). The woman in front was brought to the U.S. in elementary school from So. America when her mother married an American man.(She speaks perfect English,Portuguese and Spanish) The man in the middle was a recruited athlete from Eastern Europe who got a professional degree and remained in this country. He speaks Turkish and charming English. (He works "7/24" sometimes, and they are going to buy a "feeding station" (high chair) for their baby.) The young woman on the right is the most interesting. As a ten year old, in an orphanage in Mexico, she was brought to the attention of an incredibly persevering and kind American woman. This woman (in whose home I was eating dinner) promised this little girl that she would adopt her and get her out of the bare bones orphanage. (Apparently I was VERY wrong when I pictured it like the orphanage in the "Madeline" books!) It took 4 years to get her legally out of there. Her future mother visited her repeatedly, and then left her sobbing behind the orphanage fence as she continued to pursue the legal avenue for passage to the United States. The 10 yr. old was 14 when she got a mother. It has been difficult, but she did just graduate from high school and spoke at her graduation in her charming, not perfect, but quite good English, (VERY GOOD, considering she started total immersion at age 14!) My friend did it the 'legal' way...a lot of harm was done during those four years. I asked if she ever thought of just "sneaking her in"...she said (in the words of Sarah Palin), "You betcha!"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

People With No Names - The Undocumented #37

I keep thinking that these agricultural workers look like the jockeys who ride racehorses. They are small in stature, very strong, and brave. They are riding a big powerful racehorse known as "the Global Economy". As is true for jockeys, this is dangerous work.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

why i paint what i paint #9

I was thinking about the Cruise Ship that lost power down off the Mexican coast and what a "hardship" it was for the passengers "trapped" on the ship as it was slowly towed up the coast. You know, they had to eat cold food, the air-conditioning was out, oh and they had to entertain themselves by having sing alongs! I am sure it was American standards; and definitely by expectations vs. reality standards! (Expectation: fabulous, all amenities included 'Disneyland on the Ocean'. Reality: part of the time the cruise was as expected, then without warning the whole ship was plunged into quasi Third world conditions.) I am sure that it was unpleasant, but being paying customers the passengers WERE cared for and DID have a reasonable expectation/hope of being rescued fairly quickly from their predicament. Compare this to undocumented immigrants being ferried across the desert by a decidedly disinterested party (the coyote) or the trapped minors in Chile. I mean we are actually talking about people who WILL continuously be accompanied and attended to on their journey and WILL come out alive and well, versus people who MAY come out alive, MAY continue to be accompanied (or not), and MAY be starved, raped, beaten and die. So I will not be portraying any 'cruise ship people'. They have advocates. I DID find it instructive to go back and read about 'steerage' passengers at the beginning of the 20th Century. Alfred Stieglitz made that great photograph of the people in steerage, and while it is a beautiful photo, it hardly captures the horrible conditions of immigrants in steerage.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Works In Progress #8

This painting refuses to dry out enough for me to keep going so I will post as is. This Guatemalan woman is selling fabric in Antigua. She is practicing the most common form of "day care" in Guatemala...tie your baby on and go to work.

Monday, November 8, 2010

People With No Names - The Undocumented #36

This Mexican immigrant is working in a greenhouse in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn't until I really looked at the image that I realized that the struts from the greenhouse were casting the cross-shaped shadow across his chest. I think the figure looks as if he is "bound" or "shackled". I think he is, and I think I am too. We are both tied to a system that thrives on cheap labor producing lots of cheap goods...a system that literally disregards individual human well-being. As long as I consume with disregard for where and how my goods come to me, I am as culpable as anyone for the value and quality of this man's life.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

why i paint what i paint #8

I saw a powerful movie two nights ago called "Under The Same Moon". My husband and I couldn't get it to show us English subtitles so we just watched it in Spanish and got the gist of it. It wasn't hard to do. It was a gut wrenching portrayal of the life of a ten year old boy living with, and taking care of his sick grandmother. In a flashback, at the beginning of the movie we see his mother enduring a harrowing journey into the U.S. (four years earlier) in order to earn money to send her son to school and feed him. We see him joking around with a cousin who is a "Chiclets" selling, ragged little kid who has no adult supporting him. Meanwhile, his mother is getting up in the dark in L.A. to take 3 buses to get to house cleaning jobs. They speak every Sunday via public telephones without fail. They can't physically see or touch each other but they are under the same moon every night.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

People With No Names - The Undocumented #35

This is a Department Store in Nogales, (I think we were still on the U.S. side) and I thought it was a cheery pink store with a fairy tale name. It was only afterward, as I read more and more about NAFTA and immigration policies that I realized how very apropos it is to think in terms of Mexico as the mistreated step-sister. Cinderella is the one who does all the cleaning, and fetching, and is kept out of sight. She is not considered a legitimate part of the family and has no one to advocate for her. She certainly CANNOT go to the ball.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

People With No Names - The Undocumented #34

This is my nod to Dorthea Lange, the photographer who made her famous 1936 image of the "Migrant Mother". It has been 74 years since Lange put a face to the plight of migrant agricultural workers in California. Lange's image depicts the mother with her children huddled around her. In my image the Salvadorean woman is utterly alone, having left her 5 children with her parents, in order to go find work to support them all. When I did the math, I was kind of shocked to realize that in 74 years, the plight of agricultural workers has not changed much. New groups of people have simply been inserted into the machinations of the food harvesting industry.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Works in Progress #7

Eugene, Oregon: This morning, with the help of my wonderful sister and a brave owner, I hung 9 "immigration themed" paintings in a local restaurant that serves Mexican, Central American, and Caribbean cuisine. It is called Red Agave and is located at 454 Willamette St., west side, just before you come to the train station. Please go and check it out if you want to eat and drink great food, or just to look at the art.