In spite of the fragility and artificiality of 'sanctuary' it holds the capacity to sustain life and provide much-needed relief for some. A young bean plant grows inside the broken pot which is held together precariously by glue and strips of tape; the pot and the fragments of the broken pieces are placed on a square bed of small pebbles. The whole arrangement is placed on a pedestal 4' high; an overhead light is focused on the pot with the bean plant growing inside it.  In conjunction with the installation I hosted Dr. Maria Garcia of Eastern Michigan University to gave a talk on her research on the Maya immigrants experience in rural Ohio. The installation was part of the group show "SANCTUARY" (June 2018) at the Ann Arbor Art Center.

"Sanctuary", installation, 2018

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On the separation of mother and child due to unjust laws and impossible work hours. Initially, I was thinking of the stories of some of my Guatemalan friends in rural Ohio. But then the situation is not limited to undocumented workers in the US; it is symptomatic of the modern condition. The most unfortunate amongst us are often caught in the system and there is not much she can do about it. The presence of benevolent figures does not make it less complicated or problematic although it might provide solace for some. I have borrowed the composition from Caravaggio's "Holy Family with John the Baptist."

"The hysterical mother" (3'x4', oil, acrylic and paper on canvas, 2018)

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In many Maya towns in Guatemala the dance of the conquest is performed during the celebration of the patron saint. The performers wear plastic masks and reenact the 'conquest of the Americas.' The 'conquest' is ongoing as evidenced by the mass migration from Central America to the US. Here, it also becomes an allegory of the eternal struggle between the conqueror and conquest, oppressor and the oppressed. And, we are all caught up in this cosmic struggle as spectators or active participants.

"Baile de la Conquista" (3'x4', acrylic on canvas, 2017)

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Immigrant Worker Project, Canton, Ohio, invited me to lead a 2-day art workshop for a group of immigrant students mainly from Guatemala and Mexico; many of whom were recent arrivals and 'unaccompanied minors.' Each one of us used acrylic paints to decorate a blank mask and then we walked to the nearby Canton Museum of Art taking pictures of each other with the mask on. I don't own some of the pictures used here. I was thinking about something which would be playful yet engage with the issues of identity, visibility and legality that the lives of 'illegal' immigrants are mired in.

Art workshop, Ohio, 2017

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© 2017 by JK.

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