A collection of catcher’s masks in my studio had been talking to me for a very long time. I was attracted to them for their outward appearance and for their defensive and protective function. They also activated my feelings about the subject of migration. There is an element of power inherent in this sports equipment, allowing the wearer to engage more aggressively in potentially dangerous activity. Similar to masks used in theater and ritual, they create a temporary metaphysical and emotional change to those wearing them and often to the viewer as well. I carried this purpose and meaning to the odyssey of migrants.
Border Guards was created with the intention of providing symbolic and supernatural protection to immigrants on their journey across borders to create new lives. The catcher’s masks are softened with red embroidery thread, colored ribbon, plastic twine and chrome chain. The color of blood, red is historically associated with sacrifice, danger, courage and, in some cultures, with happiness. Other components further embellish the masks’ appearance and meaning. Mirrors refer to an eternal present moment. They symbolically deflect attention which would be an auspicious benefit for anyone crossing a frontier. US dollar bills hang from ribbon lanyards like identity badges. Silver milagros in gilded frames refer to good fortune and the creation of a bright future. Human hair is symbolic of an afterlife journey and refers to the eternity of labor.
This is not a present day subject; individuals have always migrated to invent new opportunities and escape persecution. In today’s world this activity has become highly politicized and borders have become conflict zones full of loss and heartbreak. Migrants need additional resources to travel safely.
Border Guards is a departure from previous works in that I wear them myself to bring the subject closer. The empowerment, vulnerability and discomfort I feel when occupying these masks connects me to the emotional reality of migrants. These artworks support my conviction that the abundant reservoir of humanity and decency can and should be provided to those seeking a better life.
Thank you to Tamalyn Miller and Pine Meadow Mountain Residency for providing support to Border Guards.