Friday, February 25, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #67

Okay, you may think that you have seen this painting have seen a smaller, different version. This oil on stretched canvas is 24" x 12". It is of a boy who is part of a multi-family co-op that organically grows raspberries and strawberries. It is a wonderful story (all the more so because of it's rarity) of immigrants from Mexico and Central America finding/creating safe, dignified work to support their families. They had help from kind community members securing a lease on the land, learning effective organic methodology, and selecting desirable crops to grow.

This immigrant story is highly unusual. As Father Daniel Groody (Notre Dame professor and scholar on world-wide migration) writes, the immigrant story most often follows the "four 'action verbs' of the Last Supper narrative---taking, blessing, breaking, giving. People 'take up'the decision to leave their homeland, 'bless God' for the gift of their lives and families (even in the midst of tremendous suffering), 'break themselves open' so that they can feed those that they love, and 'give themselves away' for the nourishment of others, even at the cost of their own lives." ---A PROMISED LAND, A PERILOUS JOURNEY p. 304-305.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #66

This 8" x 12" oil on canvas is the result of looking at a lot of Gauguin lately. Hence the blue hair on the woman and the green face on the man. Every time I listen to NPR, they say that the program is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, "Dedicated to the idea that ALL PEOPLE (really, the announcer always emphasizes those two words) deserve to live healthy, productive lives. " Every time the announcer says it, he doesn't go on to specify any particular geography or people I am left thinking that they just really mean ALL PEOPLE.

Monday, February 21, 2011

why i paint what i paint #15

This is a little oil sketch on cardboard of the Guatemalan wife and mother I met at the Nogales deportee center. She was standing alone...alien, unwanted. To endure this hardship, and search for a better life, she had made the difficult choice to leave her four children. Yesterday, ( in church in Tucson, AZ.), we were admonished to "Love our neighbors as ourselves". It always sounds so simple. I just have to answer the questions: (1) Who is my neighbor, and (2) How do I love myself? Who is my neighbor? Could it be anyone... whose need or suffering comes to my attention? Does geographic proximity play a part? Is my economic well-being tied into neighbors? What makes me feel loved? Well, certainly 'inclusion' makes me feel loved. And 'being wanted' makes me feel loved. Certainly, rejection does not make me feel loved.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #65

This oil on unstretched canvas is 2' x 3'. Notice that the husband is looking directly at us, but his wife is looking away. She also has sunlight behind her...a sort of rectangular halo. As I talked with them, I learned that she had left her four children behind in Guatemala, with her parents, in order to accompany her husband in their quest to find work. She began to weep. Her husband is looking directly at us...eager to meet the future, find work, support his family. She is 'in her heart and mind' back with her children...where she wants to be...where all mothers want to be.

Friday, February 18, 2011

why i paint what i paint #14

Well, I am thinking about the word "immigration" in a larger sense after having lunch with a wonderful 80 something, delightful woman yesterday. She is someone, who in her lifetime, has moved out of the land of 'not knowing about homosexual people' to the land of 'having two gay sons, who both died of aids'. When people move from one country to another, there is often a considerable shift in thinking that follows the equally large shift of location. When people move from one set of assumptions, to another...a shift often (not always) occurs...sometimes it is like tectonic plates shifting under ones ground. This particular woman moved into the land of volunteering with the gay community; and told me that in the early days of the aids epidemic it was necessary to form friendships quickly. She said that in this new land, life was precarious and precious, and futures uncertain. Being forced to leave our old country and move to a new land can be very scary and even life-threatening...but it does remind us that futures are uncertain, and life is precious.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #64

This 8" x 18" oil on museum board shows three immigrant attemptees, who have been caught and deported back to Nogales. I don't know how many times they have tried to enter the U.S. The average,remember, is about four times until success or death. And many times, the attemptees are so exhausted, cold and hungry that they just give themselves up when they see a border patrol person. (Because, often their coyotes "paid guides" have lied to them about the length and arduousness of the journey in order to get their money.) Despite the fact that it is expressly, legally forbidden to sneak into the U.S., the tempting serpent keeps whispering that there is lots of food, and work, and money in the rico El Norte. Wouldn't you listen, too, if you had nothing to lose?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #63

This is an 8" x 12" oil on masonite. It is of three people at the deportee center in Nogales. The three different angles of their bodies suggest the way that none of them really knows which direction their lives will go next. When we have money and documents, we have some semblance of control over our lives...or think that we do. We have the hubris to think that we know what is coming next. We don't. We are all the same in this.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #62

This is an 8" x 16" oil on museum board. I have titled it "We Three Kings". Here's the deal: We GIVE THEM a donation of socks...then they walk through the Sonoran Desert (risking either hypothermia or hyperthermia depending on the time of year) and then they eventually GIVE US most of the meat and produce that we consume in this country.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #61

This is an 8" x 12" oil on masonite sketch of immigrants choosing from donated clothes. The white slash on the left is a pair of socks that the man has picked up. Socks are a constant necessity for immigrants , as they will be walking miles and miles.
I have a wonderful son-in-law whose job involves constantly working around rich, spoiled, over-paid athletes. (No offense if YOU are a rich, spoiled, over-paid athlete and you are following my blog.   Anyway, my wonderful son-in-law was coming out of one of the huge sports arenas (I like to think of them as modern day America's version of Europe's great cathedrals) where he works, and noticed a familiar figure...a homeless man who regularly begged outside the arena. My son-in-law stopped and asked him a great question, "What is it you really need?" And the guy said, "Socks". So my son-in-law drove home, and went into his sock drawer, emptied it into a bag and took it to the guy. I love that my tender-hearted son-in-law stopped, took the time (he works long hours and travels a lot to support his wife and children...I am sure he was tired), and dignified the man by noticing and addressing him. It was a little thing...and it was huge.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #60

This oil on masonite  12" x 12" depicts a deportee helping with the preparation of the second of two meals per day that the 'Comedor' provides. He and others are cutting up buckets and buckets of donated eggplant. He and others are skinning it and then chopping it up into cubes.   As we were helping,  I confess that I was thinking, "I don't really like eggplant".   Then I caught myself and remembered that we were gonna feed a lot of people with FOOD...and when you don't have anything, ANYTHING is good. I don't know where it came from, but it was a LOT of eggplant.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #59

This is another oil on canvas 8"x 16". These are the deportees waiting in the cold for more assistance. Notice the one on the right putting on new socks.   As I am listening to the news of all the travel delays in the U.S. right now due to winter storms,  I find myself thinking, "If you are traveling on foot those flight delays don't apply to you!"
In my family we like to use 'neologisms' (made up new words). In my readings about immigration I read a great one...the 'Sanctuary' workers of the 1980s said that they were trying to 'conscientize' North Americans to encourage them to work for immigration reform. I guess its a new version of 'conscience raising' from the '60s. Either way, I like it and I think it is happening to me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #58

This is an 8"x16" oil on linen. It depicts the recently deported men who wait in a loose line along the fence leading up to the 'Comedor' where they can receive meals twice a day,  donated blankets and clothing. These men often make at least 4+ attempts to walk across the desert (at night), before they successfully avoid La Migra and return to work and family in the U.S. (or commence their life of hard furtive labor in the U.S).   Note the figure in front, second from the left, who is putting on socks. Socks are hugely important to men and women who walk for days across the desert, whose feet become blistered and infected. Socks are amazing, valuable protections. They can keep our feet warm, dry and cushioned from the constant abrasion of shoe against flesh.   Immigrants need real socks and 'legal socks' to protect them.