For the last four years the focus of my work has been the migrant crisis, which I believe to be the biggest crisis of our lifetime. According to the UN there are over 65.6 million forcibly displaced people in the world and from that statistic, 22.5 million people are refugees. I began my exploration of the crisis by looking at and collecting media images from both local and international sources, a common practice in my work related to my interest in the power of media, censorship, and false realities. However, these found images could only inform me so far, and left me with a weight of emotions, but most of all questions. This led me to physically travel to the Mediterranean, specifically to Greece, to Athens, and then on to the islands of Lesbos, Chios, and Samos. I spent 2 years there, in and out of refugee camps while working with non-profits, independently researching each island’s migrant history, digging up and processing local clays, while every day listening to refugees recount stories of their countries left behind. I was deeply impacted by my experience in Greece. I felt a responsibility to educate myself about each of the refugee’s home countries and their unique political turmoil within, which in turn inspired a new body of work.
Then the pandemic hit, and I found myself back In California, and my project in Athens. I began to think about migration again, but in a different way. I watched borders close their doors one by one and the world suddenly got a lot smaller. I, like most people, was glued to all news I could get that wasn’t Covid related. I remember one morning opening up the papers and seeing images of Haitian people being lassoed by American officers on horseback, while trying to safely cross the border into the US to receive much needed help. Sadly, these images were all too familiar, they were reminiscent of images seen during the days of slavery here in the US. I was extremely disturbed by the story and by seeing the images of thousands of Haitian refugees stranded on the US/ Mexico border. I found myself back in the same place again, but this time researching Haiti’s history. I went all the way back to the original inhabitants, the Taino. I read books about the Taino, their culture, and how their people, like many other people of the Americas, were colonized, and wiped out by the Spaniards over 500 years ago. It is unbelievable all this time later the Haitian people are still being displaced.
I have now come full circle, back to making art in response to another migration crisis. This time my focus is on the Americas, specifically the Caribbean and Mexico. I was inspired by the ceramic figures made some 800-2000 years ago, which were found throughout these colonized countries. I decided for this exhibition to recreate some of these found objects, but to alter their appearance, in order to promote a discussion about forced migration and vanishing cultures. I sculpted the work with Spanish clay, to put an emphasis on the impact of the colonizers and their adverse effect on these specific groups of people. I started by making a replica of a Taino Caracaracol burdened both with his curse and also without a home. Next, I recreated the “hunchback with Vessel” from the 1st century, which was made by the Lagunilla, from Nayarit, Mexico. I choose to have this figure depict a more modern-day image a refugee. From there the series has grown each piece telling a similar story, a story about the ongoing effects of past colonization on specific populations, while commenting on both the history of migration and the urgency of the crisis itself.
- Female figure with black trashbag, Chupicuaro (2022)h 10″ x w 5.5″ x d 3.5″ Black Ice, Black porcelain
- Hunchback with backpack, Nayarit (2022)h 7.5″ x w 5.5″ x d 8″ Black earthenware clay
- Kneeling female figure with blanket, Nayarit (2022)h 8.5″ x w 8″ x d 7″ Black earthenware clay
- Standing female figure with baggage, Jalisco (2022)h 16.75″ x w 10″ x d 4″ Black Ice, Black porcelain