Keeping the Dream Alive: Visual Artists Working to Change the Immigration Conversation
Immigration reform has been a hot-button issue for the last five years, and since the start of the Trump administration the conversation has only become more polarizing. Trump has made clear his opinions on immigration on numerous occasions, and has expressed his disapproval of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, long before he was ever elected into office. Back in 2015, in an interview with CNN, he suggested that the program might be one reason why the country was “going to hell”.
On the campaign trail, Trump scandalized with his virulent racism, claiming that Mexican immigrants were “rapists”, bringing “drugs” and “crime” into the country. Just last month he made headlines again, not for enacting the policy change he promised during his campaign, but for voicing his displeasure about the immigrants coming from Haiti and El Salvador or as he called them “shithole countries”.
For the last few weeks, the Senate was tasked with formulating an actionable plan to extend DACA. With legislators unable to strike an agreement and Trump’s March 5th deadline looming, scores of “Dreamers”, immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children but who are currently protected by DACA, hang in the balance. Many of them face the threat of arrest and deportation.
There are others, however, who believe that all immigrants deserve a life of liberty and justice, free to live their lives without the looming threat of deportation and protected from the watchful eye of the federal government. Musée Magazine is proud to present six visual artists, photographers and filmmakers, from around the world who are making art that strives to bring positive representation for the immigrant community and to change the national conversation about immigration for the better
Dru Blumensheid is an Australian-American artist and filmmaker based in New York City with a focus on fashion, socio-political reflections, and futurism. She debuted her latest project “REAL PEOPLE. REAL LIVES. WOMEN IMMIGRANTS OF NEW YORK. at the Queens Museum last week. By providing a platform for immigrant women to tell their stories first-hand, the exhibit is designed to “reduce misconceptions and prejudice about the faces and voices of immigrant women”.
Filmmaker Armando Ibañez brings a fresh and original voice to the growing narrative of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Inspired by his own life, his web series “UNDOCUMENTED TALES” follows the life of a Mexican server in L.A. as he struggles to conceal his sexuality from his family and his undocumented status from the world around him.
Julio Salgado is a gay, Mexican-born artist living in California who merges art and activism. A self-described “artivist”, he uses his various art projects to empower queer and undocumented people by bringing humor, empathy, and humanity to the immigration conversation. About his work, Salgado says “What my art tries to do is express, ‘No I’m actually going to tell you I exist - that I’m all these things - that I’m fucking beautiful’”.
Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and immigration activist who gained national recognition in 2012 after collaborating with TIME Magazine for their DACA issue and appearing on the cover alongside the other featured Dreamers. Vargas’ unabashed embrace of his undocumented status has established him as an incredible political force and brought an unprecedented level of truth and courage to his work as both an artist and activist. His award-winning documentary, Documented: A Film by an Undocumented American, relays his story as an undocumented person living in America.
Verónica G. Cárndenas
Based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the southernmost region of the state directly bordering Mexico, documentary photographer Verónica G. Cárndenas regularly explores issues of the intersections of race, class, and documented status in her work. Her project “A Trump”, pictured here, conjures up strong emotions of fear, uncertainty, and surreal dread. In this series, the group takes on the persona of one of the most powerful men in the world as a means of protection from what the next four years in politics might bring.
Known only by his creative pseudonym, JR is a non-traditional visual artist who exhibits his photography publicly, turning ordinary city streets into galleries. In 2011, he received the TED prize and the Inside Out project was born, “an international art project that allows people worldwide to get their picture taken and paste it up to support an idea and share their experience”. Based on this original concept, Inside Out/Dreamers provides a global stage for the Dreamers and advocates of DACA to amplify their support of liberty and justice for all.
Note: For an in-depth discussion of how visual art and photography are impacting the immigration issue, be sure to visit ICP on the evening of March 21st for the event "Photography, Immigration, and the Making of Citizenship: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives". Professor Anna Pegler-Gordon will give a lecture on the role of photography in shaping immigration policy and the perception of sociocultural issues. Afterwards, she will host a panel discussion with director of the New York chapter of the ACLU, Donna LIeberman, as well as other legal scholars and policymakers. Be sure to register online to reserve your tickets!