Sunday, March 27, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #77

Here is another 8" x 12" oil on masonite, Desde Abajo II. Notice that we cannot see the woman's face but she has been cleaning and loving the family for whom she works, for sixteen years. Every week, she thanks them at the end of her workday by saying, "Gracias por el trabajo.."(thank you for the work) and her employer has learned to say, "No, gracias a ti"(no thank you). She is thankful to be given work despite her undocumented status. Her intrinsic value as a human being is in no way linked to her undocumented or documented status.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #75

This is a detail of a large oil on unstretched canvas (2' x 3') with a small indistinct crucified Christ in the upper left hand corner (yes I have continued to look at Gauguin!). I just read that "to do theology means, in part, to face reality". Gioacchino Campese in his chapter titled 'Cuantos Mas? states,

"the planners of the current border policy knew very well that they were pushing immigrants toward a terrain in which they would find themselves in 'mortal danger', and they were aware that those natural obstacles were most probably not going to deter the migrants from crossing the border.   In other words, the deaths of thousands of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border is NOT an "unintended" consequence of U.S. border strategy, but part and parcel of an immigration policy that is often indifferent to the HUMANITY of immigrants, and does not really care if "SOME" of them die in the process of joining the cheap immigrant labor force that the U.S. economy needs.  After all they are criminals...not really human...illegal aliens. While employers of immigrants, and consumers of cheap goods continue to reap the benefits of this situation---without acknowledging it---the immigrants pay the real price of this policy with their very lives. Once again in the history of humankind it is the most vulnerable and defenseless people who must pay the price." pp. 281 and 282 "A Promised Land, A Perilous Journey"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

why i paint what i paint #17

I am reading a book about the immigration experience called "A Promised Land, A Perilous Journey". It sets forth 'Theological Perspectives on Migration'. "So is it hard to migrate? It is clear that migrating is a difficult experience undertaken by strong people. In addition we see in the journey of the migrants a troubling contradiction: although they sustain much of the infrastructure of the U.S. economy, they are forced to live as foreigners and outsiders. And although the United States is a country of immigrants, those who come to this country today from foreign lands are still marginalized and excluded. This happens not only in the United States but is a problematic pattern we see in other parts of the world as well. And while globalization has opened borders to capital and commerce, people are being left out. This state of affairs cannot continue. The world must change... We need to see migrants as our neighbors...who we accompany, encourage, and animate. Encouraging the migrants along the way---to animate them, to put life back into them---is an important attitude that we must learn from Jesus. Time and again throughout the Gospels our Lord animates, gives life and strength to those who in their suffering approach him."---Oscar Andres Cardinal Rodriguez

Friday, March 18, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #74

This is a 30" x 40" oil on canvas. The title is "Trouble Doing Homework". The little girl in the back on the left is having trouble doing her homework, because so many people live in her family's cramped quarters, and she has no private space. She is lucky though, because her third grade teacher, "Mr. Ramos, grew up, one of eight children 'following the lettuce' too. Home was a farm labor camp near Salinas and he has traveled far. The camps---a setting for John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath"---were the subject of his undergraduate thesis at the University of California, Berkeley.   In his classroom, he has built an altar of sorts:  a collection of Berkeley memorabilia, crowned with the inspiring message "Class of 2024".   "But even for the most determined students here,  poverty and college do not mix", states the article in the Sunday, March 13, 2011 New York Times.  And yet...Oscar Ramos is a potent, everyday reminder to his classroom of migrant children (and their parents) that an education is possible,  that the ability to settle down and stay in one place is possible.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #73

This oil on canvas is 30"x 40". It shows two deportees peeling and chopping eggplant to help prepare the meal served to their fellow deportees. It only took an hour or so, but as I helped, I thought that my hands were freezing and that their peelers were dull. To my embarrassment, I actually went into their tiny kitchen to ask if there were any other, sharper peelers. Seriously??!!! I just read an article in the Sunday New York Times about seasonal farm workers (who these deportees are aspiring to be) who "toil in the vast fields of Salinas Valley, cutting spinach and broccoli and packing romaine lettuce from a wet conveyor belt; nearly 13 heads a minute, 768 heads an hour, 10 hours a day." This article goes on to say that originally many immigrants "came to the United States in the 1960s through the federal "bracero" program that imported Mexican agricultural workers". We needed "arms" to harvest our crops. We also needed espaldas (backs). But it is never a good idea to view other human beings as mere useful bodies...divorced from their hearts, minds, spirits, intellects and families. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #72

This oil on canvas is 30"x 40" and titled "When You Eat This Bread, When You Drink This Cup". I am thinking a lot about the fact that immigrants would rather NOT 'eat the bread and drink the cup' of the immigrant experience. Like Christ in the garden, they wish that this cup could pass them by.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #71

This is an oil on masonite 16" x 24". It is a scene depicting two immigrants trying to cross the freezing desert in winter to enter the United States. Some Samaritans (a group of volunteers who comb the desert with water, food, blankets and medical supplies) found these brothers exhausted and freezing. They wrapped the one on the right in a high tech warming blanket. He is lying on the ground smiling because of the simple warmth he is feeling.
I heard a writer, who specializes in American history, speak yesterday. She talked about the Founding Fathers and their belief that The United States really was a shining 'City On A Hill'...a light...a beacon of goodness and hope to other places in the world. They actually believed that they were setting up a sort of heavenly place. So, I found myself thinking about the U.S. as a sort of 'lighthouse' and thinking, "of course people try to get here. If they are in trouble, if they are in stormy seas... they try to get help, they try to get to shore."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

why i paint what i paint #16

I got to go to a Modern Dance recital this week, and for those of you who have read Julia Cameron's stuff, it was "an artist's date". I felt like I was being challenged and opened to new ways of seeing and thinking, and one piece looked like a Gauguin painting come to life. But the piece I just keep thinking about was called "An Identities". Two dancers came out on stage with their backs to us, and masks of blank-faced, red lipped mannequins on the BACK of their heads. Fortunately, they just paused there for a that we had time to figure out what we were looking at. Our eyes told us that something was wrong, but our brains kept trying to make it work. (I know in my brain I kept asking if the well-muscled back on the one girl could possibly be her chest cleavage???) Then they began to dance. Sometimes only one was facing us with her real face, sometimes both...they continually flipped front and back/real and unreal. In myself, I found an interesting phenomena taking place: I began to crave their real faces. Their real faces weren't perfect, flawless, etc. but they were REAL, TRUE...NOT FAKE. And it got me thinking about how much time and energy we spend trying to project a false self to others, a self that we assume is more desirable. (Just look at those ridiculous Christmas letters we get every year!, all that plastic surgery, all of our inflated job titles!) And this dance piece made me see once again, that there is NOTHING more desirable, more restful, more true than just being our authentic selves. So let's raise a glass to truth-telling and being...and to doing work that reeks of authenticity.

Monday, March 7, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #70

This is an oil on canvas 18" x 24". The woman on the left has been working in the United States for 16 years. Her husband is dying rapidly of an incurable cancer. They have hospice care now. I know that his elderly mother wants to come up from Mexico to see him before he dies. I asked this woman when her mother-in-law was coming. She replied, "Maybe in three weeks". I raised my eyebrows to say, "Will he still be alive?" She said, "She has applied for a visitors travel visa...they don't know if it will be granted before he dies."

Friday, March 4, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #69

This oil on canvas is 2' x 5'. This is not the whole and bottom are cut off. But the gist of this image is that there is literally tons of food to be harvested (and consumed) in this country. A certain undocumented demographic (very vulnerable) is doing this work... yet many of them are not able to feed their own families, while they toil amidst this plethora of produce. This image is meant to convey, that certain people are our arms, our legs, our backs.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

People With No Names - The Undocumented #68

This is another version of the couple in the freezing cold deportee center in Nogales, Mexico. It is 12" x 24" oil on canvas. I was recently visiting my daughter's college campus for 'Parents Weekend', and as I was wandering around her beautiful campus I came upon an amazing sight...a REAL CHUNK OF THE BERLIN WALL! I exclaimed, and my daughter confirmed that, "Yep, it is the real amazing piece of history". Recently, in my immigration studies, I read about the jubilation that went through the Western world when the "symbol of separation between the material abundance of the West and the economic scarcity of the East" was torn down. The Berlin Wall "represented the dividing line between freedom and slavery, opportunity and oppression, prosperity and poverty...Ironically, as the great wall of separation was coming down in Europe, an even greater and more dangerous wall of separation was being fortified along the 1,952-mile border between the United States and is a wall of separation between the citizens of the United States and the poor of Latin America. As doors were opening to those who escaped the tyrannies of communism, doors were closing to those who were trying to escape the tyrannies of the unjust economic, political, and social structures of their own countries." p.13 Border of Death, Valley of Life