Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Immigration Carves Out Lives In America At Latino Arts

Exquistie Woodcuts Explore "From Neither Here Nor There"

By Peggy Sue
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Immigrant defines a word charged with personal and political meaning. In the United Community Center, the Latino Arts, Inc. gallery presents an exhibition to celebrate the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts 50th Anniversary with “Raoul Deal: Ni De Aquí Ni De Allá  [From Neither Here Nor There].”

An artist in residence at UWM’s Culture and Communities program, Real immigrated to the States in 1998 to study and raise his family. In this exhibit, Deal portrays images of Latinos struggling with being here, in Milwaukee, and their hearts, there, in Mexico or Latin America.

His intricate woodcuts meticulously detail portraits of the people who told their stories during his research for the exhibition. The black and white woodcuts carve out images like the individual’s lives do, displaced in another culture. Te eventually create something beautiful with their life here, similar to the woodcuts, which transform a clean wood slate into a poignant print on white paper.

Alongside the 16 large scale woodcuts and one wall sized installation of the stories Deal collected, Deal mounts poems reflecting the emotions evoked by the prints. Ximena Soza’s poetry adds further dimension to the exhibtion and personalizes the immigration debate, Often a long, painful process living between countries and cultures where daughters are unable to visit mothers, sons their fathers, even when ailing or on their deathbed. One last line from Soza’s poem reflects: “I am, but if I am what I am alone, I am nothing.”

Two prints display a reverse view of a man in a baseball cap and t-shirt titled Immigration Series #3 and #4, Only What You Need.  In these two portraits, the front of the man’s t-shirt had a saying written in Spanish, on the companion print, the English translation appears on the t-shirt’s back: Take only what you need so the other can have what they need to survive.

Many of Deal’s powerful woodcuts were purchased, and these images graphically illustrate the immigration dilemma, often perspectives overlooked. These real life scenarios were spoken by a student in her  40’s from Puerto Rico, a woman raising a family here and had only been home once in ten years, to see her mother, because she worked, was going to college, and the trip was expensive. The situation appeared more critical when her husband’s father died in Cuba, the husband devastated, unable to attend his father’s funeral or comfort the relatives. Taking a chance to return to Cuba could prevent him from returning to his family in Milwaukee.

Art, in many mediums, opens the door to conversations through less threatening means at exhibitions. People can discuss the images, which personalize the choices inherent to assimilating into another culture, acquiring citizenship while maintaining one’s heritage. Before the exhibition ends on June 7, explore the ideas and live expressed through Deal’s woodcuts. Images speaking to the families and new generations of Americans involved with immigration and loved ones left behind, on the other side of the debates….Individuals from neither here nor there.  

 

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