Migration Letters

Authored on:

Aug 28, 2012
Installation by Alejandro García-Lemos

Alejandro García-Lemos first came to the U.S. from his home in Colombia in order to attend graduate school in 1997. The painter, who now works as an interpreter for immigrants in hospitals and at the courthouse in Columbia, South Carolina, had visited the U.S. many times before finally decided to stay. "You meet someone, life changes," he says with a small laugh. The process of staying has hardly been easy, however. After fifteen years, he is applying for U.S. citizenship in April 2013.

Given his work with immigrants and his life experience, it's not surpsing that the painter has undertaken several large projects exploring the immigrant experience, including "Latino Gothic," a series of paintings portraying recent immigrants that use Grant Wood's emblamatic work as a touchstone. (A diptych from this series has been used for The Latino Midwest's posters.) The other series, "Migration Letters" is an installation that will be hung on The Englert Theatre's stage for one day, October 12 during The Latino Midwest conference. Comprised of wooden, handpainted triangular boxes that represent different letters and words associated with immigration, the installation plays with language, including misinterpretations or politically incorrect usages of words. For instance, A is for Alien, Abduction, Acculturation, Anchor babies, and American. 

García-Lemos explains that the boxes work in multiple ways:  "One side of each box has a mirror, so that you see yourself and are reminded that all of us carry immigrant DNA; you are not out of this but part of this. Also, because the boxes are hung, they move, which reminds us of the motion of the immigrant - and, again, of all of us."

The exhibit will be open all day on the October 12 and is available for classes, as well as individual visitors. García-Lemos will give a Q & A with Jennifer New, Obermann Assistant Director and author of three books on creativity and artists, at 3:30 on the stage.