I feel that it’s necessary to clarify the meaning behind the two black & white paintings of children’s faces I made.
I wanted to put real faces to the people we often perceive as threats. It’s easy to think of all people from the Middle East as terrorists and all illegal immigrants as drug runners or criminals, or a bunch of deadbeats looking to steal our jobs and kill our economy.
The reality of course is that most of them are regular people, who just want to be able to live a normal and safe life within their own family, culture and beliefs.
At the time I made these there was a big influx of immigrants from Central America of mostly women and children coming into the U.S. The horrific things people wrote in comments to those news stories and on social media made me want to put a face to these perceived threats. Because, let’s face it, you would only take on an extremely dangerous journey with an unknown outcome with your children if you knew the alternative of staying in your own country was more dangerous.
So I painted the portrait of the Immigrant boy from Central America. In the press photo I painted him from, he was sitting with his family, all looking very scared at the US border patrol in front of them. Do you see a future criminal or do you see a kid who could easily be playing soccer with your own child?
The next painting of the Palestinian girl had the same aim. In the press photo she was actually wearing a military uniform, but in the painting without the uniform she’s just the pretty girl she really is. Do you really believe it’s OK for a girl like that to become a casualty of randomly shot missiles that are aimed to hit terrorist leaders who may or may not be hiding in the building she lives in? Do you see a potential suicide bomber or just a pretty girl? What if she wasn’t wearing camo, but a pink skirt and a Minnie Mouse t-shirt? Can you see her on your daughter’s softball team?
It’s too easy and simplistic to dehumanize the people we are taught to perceive as threats and to forget that children are often the victims. Imagine for once that it’s your own child that has to duck and hide from bombs or that is put in a prison cell after you make a dangerous journey on foot to the U.S. and those are the scenarios where the child or you make it out alive…