Review: Art exhibit focuses on undocumented workers
Paintings, photos pack a punch at Westminster
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Julie Checkoway
February 18, 2008
At a time when debate over undocumented workers rages in the Utah Legislature and 57 immigrants await deportation in a county jail, an exhibit at Westminster College has something to say about what "documentation" really means.
The exhibition, entitled "Beyond Borders and Fronteras," is comprised of two complementary sets of work - "Invisible No More," new paintings by Westminster adjunct professor Jimmy Lucero; and "Bordering Injustice," color photos curated by University of Utah professor Armando Solórzano.
The Solórzano exhibit, hanging in the lobby of the Jewett Center, is a comprehensive documentary of the Dignity March in Salt Lake City in the spring of 2006, the largest-ever political demonstration in Utah history.
Solórzano, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Utah, features the work of seven photographers, culled from some 7,000 photos they took that March day.
The photos are almost audible in their vividness - full of color and life in motion - and the text that accompanies many of them, in English and Spanish, comments either obliquely or directly on the photos' contents. Solórzano and his collaborators gathered hundreds of hours of oral history from which most of the text is taken.
Some textual material comes from speeches and even, in one case, from the Bible. A lone placard reads: "You should treat the immigrant who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you. Have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once immigrants in the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19:34."
Lucero's work, intended to complement the photos, is four relatively small and vivid acrylic paintings depicting figures separated by violently angled, imposing walls. In one painting, a lone dog sits on one side of the wall, a dollar-filled baby bottle by him, while high above him is a green-faced jester in a business suit and glasses, holding a sickly infant. In another, a man in a grey suit hits a frog-shaped piñata out of which American dollars fall.
The strength of Lucero's work is unfortunately diminished by the space in which it hangs - an obscure exterior window facing north on 1700 South. There is no interior access to the work, so the only way to view it is from two stories below while standing in uncomfortably deep snow. During the day, the glare of the sun makes the stunning coloration of the work impossible to see, and at night, the windows thoughtlessly have been left unlit.
Overall, however, the two exhibits pack a punch.
Solórzano says his purpose in putting together the exhibit together is to "rescue history" of the voiceless and to deal with the notion of "the undocumented" in an entirely different way, redefining the term to mean not "one without official papers" but "those without a recorded history."
Solórzano and Lucero want to raise consciousness about the Latinos in Utah and the boundaries and borders they face. In Lucero's work, the walls are literal. In Solórzano's exhibit, those who cross those borders are made manifest as deeply symbolic and fully human.
"Beyond Borders and Fronteras"
* WHERE: Jewett Center at Westminster College, 1840 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City
* WHEN: Through Friday; the exhibit then travels to Moab (May), Dixie College (June-August), the University of Utah (September), and Weber State University (October)
* BOTTOM LINE: Photos and paintings about Latino immigrants bring a contentious issue to life.