Monday, July 21, 2008

Art exhibit chronicles immigrant experience

Art exhibit chronicles immigrant experience
Monday, July 21, 2008 | 6:00 PM

A new exhibit in Chicago chronicles the immigrant experience in America.

It features paintings, photos, quilts and other works created by dozens of artists from around the world.

The National Museum of Mexican Art's new exhibit is a declaration of immigration. More than 100 paintings, photographs, sculptures and quilts deal with immigration.

A large tumbleweed with articles belonging to immigrants rolls across the American landscape. One painting shows an undocumented person evolving into a butterfly. A quilt is made of clothing from people trying to come to the U.S. An Albanian artist depicts immigrants in limbo going nowhere.

Carlos Tortolero, president of the museum, says the exhibit is designed to challenge U.S. immigration policies.

"Immigrants are what this country is all about, the heart and soul of this country," said Tortolero.

Chicago artist Juan Compean's customized foosball table features the immigration debate between Mexico and the United States, showing businessmen and politicians in the background and workers in the front lines.

"It simulates the back and forth action of both the immigration itself and the debate," said Compean.

Labor tea represents the millions of undocumented laborers and puts faces to the tea bags. There are also photographs of a window washer dressed as Spiderman scaling a building, a nanny dressed as Catwoman, a man who looks like the Incredible Hulk and workers clad in Wonder Woman and Superman garb working grueling hours to make a better life.

Tortolero says he is disturbed that both presidential candidates voted for the fence along the U.S. border with Mexico.

"The purpose of this exhibit is to bring social awareness to the immigration reform debate. But the letter says instead of building a wall, we should be building alliances," Tortolero said.

The exhibit attempts to provide immigrant perspectives that are seldom included in the national debate.

More than 70 artists from around the world are represented in a declaration of immigration. The installation closes September 7.

This exhibition will launch the museum's three-year commitment to immigrant-centered programs. Tortolero says it is their responsibility to take a proactive stance and provide a platform from which immigrants can speak.

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