Changing The World With Art - Immigration

Sacrifice -  Seeking A Better Life
Today the number of immigrants is overwhelming many countries’ resources and their capability to support them. Politically, there is a rise in nationalism due to fear and economic uncertainty. Politicians, especially in the United States and Europe, have used this fear to gain power, fanning the flames of division using fear of the “other”.

My piece was developed to counter this fear-mongering and create empathy in the viewer’s mind with refugees. No one wants to leave their home and country unless circumstances have forced them to re-evaluate their life and to seek safety or a better way of life.  Mass migration is caused by war, famine, natural disasters and economic distress.  I am the grand-daughter of a Swedish immigrant and both sides of my family,  maternal and paternal, migrated from Sweden.  I was raised with immigrants, heard their stories at my grandparents parties, our family had visitors from the “old country” and still consider myself not too far from that experience.

Twenty-five percent of Sweden migrated from 1850 to the1930’s,  mostly due to famine. Some migrated for freedom of religion. Think about that statistic - 25% of the population - how devastating the situation must have been to cause that massive a migration and how it affected the society in which it happened because of course it is the young and more healthy who are able to leave. The current immigration story is the same as the story of my family.

The media is full of devastating images, people floating on rickety boats, trying to get on trains, being held back by lines of soldiers or barbed wire fencing.  My piece contains images of these key elements that symbolize this struggle.  A woman carrying her child on her back beside a train. A couple disembarking from a boat, feeling weary but relieved having survived; in the center is the iconic image of the dead refugee child on the beach, an image so horrific that it is seared in our hearts and minds - was shared globally.  This is the risk immigrants take. It may involve loss of life, loss of dear ones. Thus, the title of my piece Sacrifice - Seeking A Better Life.

I chose to incorporate this devastating image in the center of my piece because it is iconic -  in the same way that the Vietnam War was associated with the little girl running down the street naked, having lost her clothes to napalm. At the bottom of the center print is also a sharp angled shape with red “flames” that symbolizes the violence of war and natural disasters, the tragedies that cause mass migration.  It also symbolizes the violent divisions caused by populist politicians fanning the flames of fear over this issue.

The composition of my piece, an intaglio triptych, unobtrusively resembles a cross, a symbol of suffering. My piece is intended to compel us to have empathy with those who suffer and to open our borders, and share what we have with those who seek refuge. It is our moral imperative.