Friday, January 28, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #57

This is a little study done on cardboard in oil.   Same subject as last one only I've put the people closer they actually were when I saw them.  They are close to each other and close to us...both geographically, socially, historically, and psychologically.  As Franklin D. Roosevelt reminded a convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution,
   "Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended                            from immigrants and revolutionaries".   
Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life. As Walt
Whitman said,
   "These States are the amplest poem,
    Here is not merely a nation but
    a teeming Nation of nations."
These two quotes are lifted directly from "A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS" by John F. Kennedy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #56

This painting is Oil on linen 8"x 16". The immigrants are painted with space between them to visually hint at their alone-ness and the winter jackets are for their protection against the cold and a metaphor for their need for protection against the cold reception awaiting them...even as they seek to come to the United States to provide us with produce and meat.  I stood in my local grocery store produce section last night and wondered how all that food got to me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

why i paint what i paint #13

I am reading a book titled "A Nation of Immigrants" by John F. Kennedy. It begins with the story of Alexis de Tocqueville (a young French aristocrat) coming to America in 1831 to attempt to understand the new experiment in democracy. On returning to France, he wrote his opinion about the American experiment in his great work, "Democracy in America". He identified a central factor in the American democratic faith: "It may be said that on leaving the mother country the emigrants had, in general, no notion of superiority one over another. The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune"

Monday, January 24, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #55

This 11'x14" oil on canvas depicts a father who I met at the Comedor in Nogales, Mexico. He was picked up walking across the desert at night (in below freezing temperatures), and deported. He is wrapped in a large moving van sort of blanket as he shows me a photo of his toddler daughter who lives in the U.S. with his wife. Both his wife and daughter are U.S. citizens and the small family has been living and working productively in the U.S for years. Because he was unsuccessful returning to his wife, she has been forced to move in with her mother in California. He does not know when he will see his family again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #54

This oil on canvas 20"x 22"depicts a family that was recently re-united at the Comedor (a place where deportees are fed and given clothing and medical attention just a few hundred yards south of the U.S./Mexico border). The family had been living and working for years in Phoenix, AZ. when the parents (not U.S. citizens) went to a funeral in Mexico. When they tried to return to their children (U.S. citizens) in Phoenix, they were caught by border patrol and deported to Mexico. The "Samaritans", a group in Southern Arizona who are committed to protecting the welfare and even the lives of immigrants in the region, managed to re-unite the family in Nogales. I found it interesting to observe the various postures of the family members...the mother holding them all together, the father who needs to stay in the shadows to go undetected by authorities as he seeks to care for his family, the child in repose against her father's breast, the central child who looks like she is dancing or holding the world in her arms, and the son, looking outward...knowing that he will have to go out and help care for his family all too soon. I am re-reading Anne LaMott's TRAVELING MERCIES, and something that her preacher said seems to apply to this situation perfectly: "This is life's nature: that lives and hearts get broken---those of people we love, those of people we'll never meet. The world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes." Bravo Samaritans!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #53

This image is oil on board, 6"x 18". The title is "The Price of Strawberries". Quoting The Economist (Dec. 18, 2010), "There is no clearing house for jobs in the fields, so the migrants follow tips and rumours. Often, they end up in the right places at the wrong times. Felix Vega and his wife were dropped off in Oxnard (California), famous for its strawberries. But they arrived out of season, so they slept on the streets, then in a doghouse, then in somebody's car. For two months they did not bathe and barely ate. Finally, they found jobs picking strawberries and made their first money in America. And thus they joined the vast undocumented workforce that under-girds America's food supply...Rob Williams, the director of the Migrant Farm-worker Justice Project (which represents farm-workers in court) estimates that 90% of farm-workers are sin papeles (without papers), just as the Vegas are. Strawberries, the crop the Vegas couple started out with, are nicknamed 'la fruta del diablo' (the devil's fruit) because pickers have to bend over all day. "Hot weather is bad," says Felix Vega, but "cold is worse" because it makes the back pain unbearable. Even worse is sleet or rain, which turns the field into a lake of mud. The worst is picking when you have the flu."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #52

This is and oil on masonite 8"x12". This little girl was at the 'Comedor' in Nogales, Mexico. It was a cold January day but she was bundled up in a jacket, scarf, and hat and she was smiling. One sees few women and even fewer children in the deportee/refugee/immigrant population. Part of this is due to the dangers and hardships that all immigrants are subjected to, and part is due to the fact that many immigrants choose to leave more tender and vulnerable family members behind in order to 'go ahead and prepare a place for them'. It is a re-enactment every day of service and sacrifice, (recall Jesus going ahead of us to prepare a place for us, and then gathering us to himself.) Also, I am reading about the Chinese immigration to the U.S. in the 1930s and how the laws had provisions for men to come and enter the work force, but made it particularly difficult to bring in women and children. Women carried within their bodies the threat of increasing numbers of American born Chinese children. So, I can't help but look at this little girl and think, "Is she the next Vera Wang?" In the 30s, we certainly did not want Vera Wang's relatives in this country. Today, we are thrilled to call this very talented, hard-working, creative woman our fellow American!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #52

This oil on canvas is two side by side panels that measure 12" x 36" each.  These two men were picked up in Palo Verde, AZ and sent to a Federal Corrections Center. Their clothing, (including underwear) IDs and money was taken. Then, with no hearing, they were taken to the border at night (25 deg. F.) and left with no clothing (except the orange prison garb), no ID, and no money.  They showed up at the open-air shelter of the Comedor (which is a few hundred yard walk from the border, but only open a few hours per day) where they were fed and given money to call their families (in the U.S.) to tell them they were alright. They spoke English very well and had been living and working in Calif., Tenn., and Az. for 10 and 15 years, respectively.  I found it interesting as I painted the image, that the men are standing in front of a fence that is very suggestive of the jail from which they had recently been released.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #51

This oil on cardboard is 9"x18". The paintings shows three deportees who are cheerfully washing the dishes after one of the twice a day meals that are served at the "Comedor". The man in the front is scrubbing out a big pot. It reminded me that America is often referred to as a big 'melting pot'...and I just wondered how we decide that our pot is full...and we don't want anyone else in our pot.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #50

This painting is 8"x12" oil on canvas. I went to Nogales, to the Comedor (a metal roof and tarp sheltered kitchen/dining facility within walking distance of the Mexico U.S. border on the Mexico side) with my husband and two college kids. We reasoned that we were driving an hour south to get there, so thought it would be warmer than Tucson. In fact it is higher in altitude and a LOT colder. We only took sweaters. We spent the morning helping with one of the two daily meals that the Jesuit Kino Border Initiative provides. We talked with the recent deportees, dressing a very infected finger (that the man may lose), and interfaced with the wonderful Samaritan volunteers who come to Nogales regularly with donated clothing and medical supplies for people who have nothing to go 'back' to and no clear way forward. Notice that the people in the painting are in jackets, scarves, and gloves. Fortunately, the Samaritans had collected some warm winter clothing to distribute to them. We were cold, really cold. But after a few hours, we walked back across the border, got in our warm car, and drove home to our warm house.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

why i paint what i paint #12

I just read a really good article in The Economist, a news magazine from London that gives me a larger perspective. The article starts with the story of a couple in Oaxaca who cannot take their sick two year old to the doctor because they cannot afford to pay him. They watch their son die. They make a decision to come north to the United States. After multiple attempts and humiliations at the hands of La Migra (America's Immigration and Border Officials); they succeed on their fourth attempt. It has been so grueling trying to eke out an existence working in fields, avoiding La Migra, enduring racial slurs, that the family hesitates when asked if they would do it all over again. "They think we're criminals, but we came here to do good and we're all children of God," says Felix Vega. The article concludes, "People like the Vegas will always keep coming no matter the fences that go up on the border and the helcopters that circle above. For they are like the Joads in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. As Steinbeck wrote: How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him--he has known a fear beyond every other."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #49

This is another small study (8"x12" oil on canvas) of the Guatemalan woman who received asylum in the United States. I am reading a wonderful book, "Cutting For Stone" and it has a wonderful passage about what it is like to be a brand new immigrant in America. "What human language captures the dislocation, the acute insufficiency of being in the presence of the superorganism, the sinking, shrinking feeling at this display of industrial steel and light and might?...I saw no animal, no humans except in cars...You there! Listen! Independence and resilience. This is what the new immigrant needs. Don't get fooled by all this activity...No, no. One functions alone in America."