familias exhibition at
the albany museum of art
Sept 7th, 2023 - Jan 6th, 2024
This deeply personal series, Familias, depicts families in moments of immense transition, maintaining their physical closeness as they migrate through a variety of surreal landscapes. Always painted in three-quarter or profile view, these characters are focused on what lies ahead, needing that forward momentum to journey into new lives in foreign lands. As an immigrant from Argentina, creating this series was a way of processing some of my childhood experiences as a young person caught between worlds. Children of non-English speaking immigrants are expected to translate for their parents, as they often pick up the language more quickly, all while explaining customs and jokes in this new culture, reading labels in the grocery store and telling mom how much change the cashier needs. Teachers and cops raising their voices will never help us understand English better. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? No entiendo.
The families in the series are painted as happy and hopeful, as my childhood immigrant experience to this country was generally pleasant. Yet there was always an underlying sense of loss, a feeling that connects many immigrants regardless of our specific experiences. My characters contain visual cues to represent some of this inner conflict. As migrants, especially as children, we know our difference can be used against us, so we don masks in order to fit into our new worlds. We must learn a new language and culture, with the expectation that the process be seamless. These masks integrate us into society and veil the loss of our familial support systems back home. We learn to put on a happy face. Immigrants are often called aliens and are given "resident alien" cards by the government, further separating us from the country we came to live in. With this in mind, I have chosen to paint all of my characters’ skin grey, as a pop-culture nod to the "grey aliens” Americans finds so intriguing. The tattoos on their skin are markers for their position as outsiders stuck in identity limbo. As time passes after we’ve left our home countries, we begin to take on new personas, losing a bit, or a lot, of our past lives - our past selves. When we return to our original country after many years, our accents are a bit different. Family and old friends tell us we are American. Yet when we return to America, we are still seen as outsiders. I will always be that kid with the funny name that others can’t pronounce.
Each Familias painting has a narrative of its own, many of which can be interpreted differently depending on the viewer. These traveling families take many forms, as do their stories, serving as windows into individual experiences of migration. As a child, fables and myths were crucial tools in order to understand the world around me. My hope is that the narratives found within these paintings will invite the same curiosity and connection I have always found through the uniquely human act of sharing stories.