Site-Specific Installation

Site Nº1, Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico

Retablo Nº 1 – Unidentified Migrant from Site Nº 1, Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico, 2002

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In an effort to create a sense of the process being a collaboration, I used large-format positive/negative Polaroid materials, giving the migrant the resulting print as a record of that one moment of such significant personal transformation while I retained the negative, processing them in the field. The resulting negatives were then printed in the darkroom on 1/4 inch steel plates that weighed approximately 30 lbs. and had been coated with a gelatin silver emulsion. Once completed, the steel plates were permanently riveted to the border wall in Tijuana, where the migrant had been encountered and photographed.

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Site Nº 3, Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico, 2003

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Cardboard retablo found along U.S. - Mexico border wall, Tijuana, Mexico, 2003

Cardboard retablo drawn by Carlos from Mexico City, Site Nº 4, Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico

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Through the use of steel, and later aluminum, the images reference in a contemporary manner 19th-century photographic tintypes and the Mexican religious iconography of the retablo: votive paintings prepared on sheets of tin that are an expression of gratitude from which the subject has been miraculously guided through a dangerous or threatening event with the divine intervention of a holy figure such as Christ, the Virgin, or the saints.

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Site Nº 5, Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico, 2003

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With the five portraits used for the Site Nº 5 installation, the names of each migrant and their home state in Mexico were carved into the steel so each portrait would be informed by their own sense of personal identity. Due to the harsh desert landscape conditions as well as interventions by the Mexican government, the photographs eventually deteriorated, leaving the portraits faintly visible – small traces of someone’s identity left behind.

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Site Nº 5, Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico, 2004

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Gallery presentation of Retablo Nº 2 – Martin / Sinaloa, Alejandro / Nayarit and Jose / Chihuahua from Site Nº 3, including installation image and steel plates (second version (L) and original installation plate (R), New Mexico State University Art Gallery, 2015

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Gallery presentation of Retablo Nº 9 – Jose Luis / Michoacán from Site Nº 5, including steel plates (second version (L) and original installation plate (R), New Mexico State University Art Gallery, 2015

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