Art Center Ukiah October "Immigration" show
By Laura Fogg
Immigration is a concept that resonates with many who currently call Ukiah their home, and it was chosen by the Board members of Art Center Ukiah as the theme for their October show. In our complicated world where many naturally stay in their comfort zone surrounded by familiar people, objects and ceremonies, this topic was seen as a challenging one that might foster awareness and communication among local groups of people who rarely, if ever, interact with each other.
The population of our Ukiah Valley consists of thousands of people who have immigrated here from the land of their birth, across borders and oceans. Some came as children with their parents, some made the journey on their own as adults, and some are descended from earlier generations who made the journey. These immigrants brought food, languages, customs, plants, insects and animals with them, some of which have become part of our present landscape and some of which are largely unshared.
The challenge presented to local artists made it clear that Art Center Ukiah was looking for expressive work that tells all sides of this story. Intentionally probing questions were presented for artists' consideration. "What is life like for you in a new land... what have you lost and what have you gained by coming here? Was it worth it to leave your homeland? What was your journey like and is it over? Where do you belong now... are you from here or there?"
Victor Palomino, who immigrated to the US from Colombia more than 20 years ago, is excited to show his art. A seasoned traveler and story-teller, he uses a combination of film, journaling and visual art to help him come to terms with his own life journey. In his words, "I keep asking myself what it means to be Latino. In Latin America people identified with their country of birth... Colombian, Guatemalan, Mexican... but in the US I am now 'Latino.' Creating art on that theme has helped me reflect on what it is to be Colombian, Latin American and American, and open a door to understanding myself."
Victor continues, "Art is a common language. A gallery is a safe space to communicate and ask hard questions." He knows what he is talking about, having curated art shows in the past which featured immigrants showing their work. He describes this current Ukiah show as a way of history repeating itself in a positive way. Victor will be in good company with fellow artists with roots all over the planet who want to explore and share their stories with other recent immigrants and long-time "locals" as well.
Another exciting feature of this show will be an altar for Dia de los Muertos, created by Juan and Jackie Orozco and their family members and friends. It will occupy a place of honor in the art exhibit and stay up for the duration of the show. Juan elaborates on this beautiful tradition that his family has kept in their new United States home. He explains, "In addition to sharing our culture, we also want to maintain an identity, as it is the essence of a human being. It is a sense of belonging and individualism." Juan continues with an insight about cultural universality... "The honoring and celebrating our dead loved ones is not unique to Latin America. Other parts of the world celebrate in other ways." Maybe some of those other ways will be expressed in the show.
The First Friday opening of the "Immigration" show will be on October 7 from 5-8pm. Art Center Ukiah is located in the rear space of the Corner Gallery at 201 S State St in Ukiah. The event is free and the entire community is invited. Live keyboard music will be provided throughout the evening by local pianist Elizabeth McDougall. There will also be a short set of guitar and vocal music by Angel Garcia, beginning at 6pm.