Oil on Canvas, 30x40in., 2016-2017
"My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too."
-- President Obama, November 20, 2014
The term “melting pot” came into full use in 1908 and speaks to a heterogeneous society becoming more homogenous, with all races and creeds and cultural norms coming together in accord. It is the peaceful integration of immigrants coming to the United States. I picture it as a type of stew in which all the different elements are thrown in. Each element on it’s own can stand alone perfectly and for good reasons, but when combined create something delicious and tantalizing. Music sounds excitingly strange to the ears, new words are peppered into our daily lexicon, art takes on a necessary, modernistic and refreshing visual language. In Obama’s tear-jerking farewell address on January 11th, 2017 he stated “If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce.” This couldn’t be more clear and pressing in our country now, and couldn’t be truer.
As an artist I personally believe in periods of ingestion or intake. This means I put down the brush and pencil or any act of “doing,” in order to look around me. Walking by this seemingly mundane scene of an air conditioner propped up by two weather worn and rusty Goya cans in Brooklyn one day, caused me to pause in my tracks. What was it.... what was it about this that struck me? Everything is truly political, down to the extremely banal. As creators of anything we cannot extricate ourselves from the social and the political. Stop right now and look at the tag inside your jeans. Then look inside your cupboards. Then find out how your house is luxuriously being heated and cooled. Then jump on Google to do some research. Find out who is clothing your body, who is feeding you, and who is keeping you alive.
Goya, founded in 1936 by Spanish immigrants Don Prudencio Unanue and his wife Carolina, is the nation’s largest Hispanic-owned food company. The company started on Duane Street in Lower Manhattan, moving to Brooklyn in 1958, with its still current headquarters stationed in New Jersey since 1974. There are 26 facilities in the US, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Spain that currently employ over 4,000 people worldwide. Please tell me that immigrants don’t create jobs for us! In 2012, Goya also worked with Michelle Obama and the USDA to set in motion the “MyPlate” campaign, an initiative to help educate Americans how to eat healthier.
Frigidaire, the brand of air conditioner these two Goya cans are propping up, was a company originally founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1916. It was ultimately purchased in 1986 by it’s current parent Electrolux, based in Stockholm, Sweden.
The social undertones of poverty or income level are self explanatory in “Goya.”
As I’m sitting here in Siem Reap, Cambodia typing this, a man just walked up to me with a box of books. He is one of many badly mutilated and disfigured men and women who wander through the streets selling assorted wares in order to feed their families. Where his arms once were, now are stumps, blown off from a landmine twenty two years ago. He raised his shirt to show me dozens of scars creating a map across his torso. “America is the best nation in the world,” he said. “Our government, very bad.” And to contrast this shocking reality, many in the United States, in a self created “safe” bubble, are absorbed in media propagated turned self-imposed irrational fears of brown skin tones marring the ivory white of our skin. Isn’t this complete minutiae? Wouldn’t we be SHOCKED to know where we truly came from, under our sheath of flesh? I desire a golden hued, delicious, warm, exciting and diversified cultural melting pot for our nation because THIS is what makes us unique and great! The fact that we can offer a place of hope and safety for everyone in America, AND for those who risk their lives fleeing from their own tormented nations, in order to live a free existence in ours. It is more imperative than ever in our transforming United States political climate, that we honor our unalienable human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all of which governments should protect.
(Now go eat some Goya.)