Things That Matter

Letters of Detained Immigrants are Getting Mass Exposure by Becoming Works of Art


What happens when art, activism, and letters of detained immigrants collide? A stunning and emotionally-packed art series depicting the deplorable conditions of US detention centers. Taking inspiration from the detainees’s letters, artists created these:

The Pain Heartbreaking Goodbye

Credit: Gabrielle Tesfaye / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“Melisa I hope that you get out of there soon, don’t worry and don’t lose faith that God will make it up to you, always pray to Him that He give you strength to continue moving forward.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I found [the author’s faith was] really powerful and, unknowing of what their specific religious views are, I found it important to include something in the sketch representative of faith, hope, beauty, strength and a higher divine purpose throughout the ordeals of the struggles of life.”

The anonymous letter was written by a teenage girl thank her friend for her friendship while in the detention center. The author was deported to El Salvador with her family and about 36 other families.

Suffocating Desperation in Young Faces

Credit: Dolly Li / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I dream of getting out of this place…to be able to study one day…to have a better future for my life.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I wanted to evoke the sensations of feeling trapped and suffocated to show that immigration detention is not a humane place for anyone to exist in, let alone a child.”

Jackeline, the author of the letter, was held in the detention center with her mother and young sisters, waiting to learn their faith in the system.

READ: These Latinos Break Down Immigration AND Make it Funny

Never-Ending Nightmares Exposed

Credit: Jess X Chen / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am trusting my God who will quickly end this nightmare.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “For as long as she lives, the Honduran mother, and millions others, reach for each other and form constellations in the night despite the borders, detainments, and abuse of the US.”

The author attempted to cross the border twice. The second time, she tried to bring her youngest son, 12, from Honduras after gangs approached the boy to join and killed his friend in front of him.

Dehumanizing Treatments of Refugees

Credit: Chucha Marquez / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“For most people who have entered this place, it’s the start of a new life, but it begins badly, because this Detention Center—that they call a shelter for immigrants—but only those of us who live here know it’s really a jail.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “Butterflies migrate and their migration is beautiful, they’re not restricted by physical borders. When humans restrict the beauty and nature of human migration it brings pain and trauma.”

Rebeca Paulina’s letter exposed the struggles and inhumanity of the detention centers from undercooked food, criminalization for migrating, and the lack of appropriate medical attention for babies. Paulina writes that it takes a baby having a fever of 104 before the doctors will give the child medicine, otherwise they recommend the steam from a hot bath.

Suicide Attempts Caught on Canvas

Credit: Favianna Rodriguez / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am afraid that if I stay in this center something could happen to me or my daughter because the ICE tries to cover up everything and all news that happen here.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “The women detained in Karnes County Detention Center have endured physical abuse, rape by prison guards, and the constant sicknesses of their children.”

The letter, written by Polyane Soares de Oliveira from Brazil, talks of rapes, being denied medical treatment and the fear controlling the detainees. The text on the image comes from a suicide note from Lilian Oliva, 19 and a mother who was discovered in a center bathroom with slit wrists. She survived the attempted suicide and was later deported back to Honduras with her child.

Faith in God Translated into Illustrations

Credit: Julio Salgado / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am desperate, I don’t like the food anymore, and I don’t want to be here. My son’s first birthday was here. I would like to get out of here.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “We cannot be okay with the thought that a mother has to celebrate their child’s birthday behind bars. ”

The author, who’s name was redacted, has been in the detention center for a year with her child.

READ: UndocuQueer Activists Changing the Immigration Debate

Confusion and Fear Plaguing Children

Credit: Robert Trujillo / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“It bothers me to not even know when we’ll get out of here, although I have hope we’ll be freed. God willing we’ll get asylum.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I think the part of the letter that hit me most is the idea of not being able to control what is happening, not knowing when they will be able to leave, and the cramped feeling of all of these conditions on top of each other.”

Miguel, who is just 10 years old, is forced to grow up in what he calls a prison and is living in uncertainty about whether or not his family will ever be free.

Life Tormented with Death Threats and Violence

Credit: Micah Bazant / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I cannot return to Guatemala. I am an orphan, and my husband was murdered. I was also threatened, that I would be killed together with my daughter.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “When I imagined what I wished for this mother and her child, I imagined a mighty waterfall breaking through the prison walls.”

An anonymous mother talks about her fears of being sent back to Guatemala because she does not speak Spanish, rather she speaks an indigenous language. The water she and her daughter are being forced to drink has bleach in it and the commissary prices are so high, she can’t afford clean water.

Deception and Hopelessness Brought to the Forefront

Credit: Rose Jaffe / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“Our great fear is that they will deport us without giving us any notice and without us having any communication with our families or lawyer; because in this center they have already deported many families that have already spent so much time incarcerated.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I want the audience to capture the journey this family has gone through…and then the juxtaposition of the ‘hopes’ for a safe haven versus the reality of the situation.”

Estela Marquez Marquez, 34, and her three daughters, 15, 14, and 11, live terrified of the guards and staff knowing that the abuse and sexual violence committed inside the detention center is being covered up.

READ: Latino, Gay, and Undocumented in the Rural South

Abuse of Power Fills Frames

Credit: Zeke Peña / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I know that the way we came [to the United States] is illegal, but the only reason [for coming to the United States] is because I am very scared to go back to my country.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I think I’d like viewers to feel a simple level of human connection to this woman’s struggle.”

The mother, 24, and her son, 10, have been in the detention waiting for freedom. They only came to the US to seek freedom and safety, something they are being denied.

Suffering of Children Stares at You

Credit: Mata Ruda / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“We were 5 days in La Hielera, terribly cold, sleeping on the floor of cold cement, we would cover ourselves with aluminum paper, the federales would count us every 2 or 3 hours, would get us up and the sleeping children to go outside and they would strike the door hard with their clubs and they would discriminate against us, they would say that we were dirty, that we had no reason to come here to this country.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I wanted to create a simple composition that focuses on the strength, selflessness, hope, and love of a mother who is enduring tortuous conditions because of a lack of a piece of paper.”

Sonia Elizabeth Hernandez Amaya is 33 and a mother of three children ages 10, 9, and 3. Her letter depicts the treatment of detainees and the conditions of the hold facilities they were passed through before arriving at Karnes Detention Center.

You can see the full project hereVisions from the Inside is a collaborative art project created by CultureStrike, Mariposas Sin Fronteras, and End Family Detention.

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A Large Mural of Frida Kahlo in Traditional Mexican Dress Has Just Been Unveiled and She’s Never Looked More Electric


A Large Mural of Frida Kahlo in Traditional Mexican Dress Has Just Been Unveiled and She’s Never Looked More Electric

@findac / Intagram

Frida Kahlo is the most recognizable Mexican painter of the past century. That bold brow, traditional Mexican garb and piercing stare are undeniably Frida in a way that makes her completely unique among other artists. She’s also one of the most widely portrayed Mexican figures of all time. Her image adorns everything from tee-shirts and jewelry to murals and makeup. Her image is so recognizable that flower crowns, red lipstick, and ungroomed eyebrows will forever have an association with the artist.

To add to the Frida imagery in our world, a new mural featuring the famous artista has just been unveiled in Mexico and she has never looked better.

Painted by Irish artist Fin DAC, the mural portrays Frida Kahlo in bold primary colors and traditional Mexican dress.

Twitter / @la_linea

The artwork is named “Magdalena” and is located in Guadalajara — the capital of Jalisco. In the mural, Frida is represented with a full-body image, hands placed together in front of her as if in prayer. Vibrant flowers and butterflies adorn her like a crown in true Frida fashion.

She wears a huipil (a multicolored blouse traditionally found in southern Mexico), a pink shawl and a long blue skirt accentuated with various-sized skulls. The ten-story mural also depicts the artist with a blue mask across her eyes. This is artist Fin DAC’s signature that he adds to all of his pieces and works to enhance the dark stare that Frida gives viewers.

The artist responsible for this mural has lots of experience creating urban art in Latin America.

Twitter / @BrasilEFE

Between 2012 and 2017, Fin DAC visited Latin America several times. He created six murals total in Colombia and Brazil during that time. This is his first time creating art in Mexico. The artistic is known for his style — called “Urban Aesthetics” —  and has made art on the streets of five different continents. His images also include women dressed in the native costume of their countries and are finished with his signature mask.

The artist explained the reasoning for his attention to national traditions to Mexanist. He said:

“No matter the culture and nationality for me, I am more interested in the type of clothing typical of each place, each country and each place has something to offer and show in this sense.”

For Fin DAC, the choice to depict Frida on this wall was an easy one. The artist explained that her own artwork always sought to exalt the women it depicted — much like his own. Frida’s own famous way of dressing always incorporated traditional Mexican costuming too so the decision to paint the famous Mexican for this piece was “almost obvious” to the painter.

The artist was invited to create this mural as part of celebrations for the Despertares Impulsa dance festival.

Instagram / @findac

Created by famous Mexican dancer, Isaac Hernández, the Despertares Impulsa dance festival began as a way to gather and stimulate the creative industry in Mexico. With the backing of the Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts, the event offers performances, workshops, lectures, master classes and meet and greets. The festival also offers opportunities for free auditions to different international dance companies.

Fin DAC was invited to create this piece by the director of Despertares Impulsa. The image was painted on a wall facing Chapultepec Avenue — a busy street that receives lots of traffic in the urban area. Fin DAC choose this location purposefully for this reason.

“When you see a spectacular advertising pole,” he said, “You see an image trying to sell you something you don’t need, but it makes you feel like you want it. (On the other hand) when you see a piece of art on the street it brings you a moment of happiness and peace, nothing from the advertising you see will make you happy, but art can definitely do it.

The mural was officially unveiled on July 15th, 2019 as part of the festival’s celebrations.

Twitter / @findac

The unveiling comes at a time of year significant to Frida fans. July 6th was the 112th anniversary of the artist’s birth. The 65th anniversary of her passing also happened this past month on the 13th of July. As such, this beautiful mural is an appropriate gift to honor the late Mexican artist.

This Vogue Exhibit — Featuring A Gorgeous Portrait Of Yalitza Aparicio — Is Now Open In Mexico City


This Vogue Exhibit — Featuring A Gorgeous Portrait Of Yalitza Aparicio — Is Now Open In Mexico City

Any designer will tell you that art and fashion often go hand-in-hand. Through the ages, art has reflected so much about society and history solely through the clothing and architecture depicted by oils and pastels. From the runways of Paris and Milan to the pages of VOGUE, the composition, color, and forms of the latest fashions often show us that they are equivalent to the most iconic works of art created by the most masterful fine artists.

Now, Vogue is yet again showing us the relationship between art and fashion with its brand new “Vogue Like a Painting” exhibit.

Twitter / @mamiyolis

The exhibition is being shown at Mexico City’s historic Franz Mayer Museum from now until September 15, 2019. The sample of 65 images is a representation of the greatest photographs to manifest in VOGUE during its past 20 years as a publication.  The magazine’s archives were thoroughly examined to find the most impactful, most artistically composed and most striking pictures to be taken by photographers during their time at VOGUE.

Over the last two decades, some of the most iconic photographers ever have collaborated with the publication. Annie Leibovitz, Paolo Roversi, Tim Walker, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Steven Klein, Sheila Metzner, Cecil Beaton, and Edward Steichen are some of the many big name artists who have captured moments for VOGUE. They have contributed easily some of the most recognizable images that the magazine has printed and their work will be available to view at the “Vogue Like a Painting” event.

Karla Martinez de Salas, editorial director of Vogue Mexico and Latin America, had this to say about the art exhibition:

“I have always believed in the power of images, in that inexplicable magic of telling stories without words that allow us to inspire and make us dream. From a painting signed by Goya, to an image photographed by Tim Walker or Paolo Roversi, it is these beautiful visual records of fashion and culture that are truly treasured in our memory and heart.”

What all of these images have in common are distinct characteristics that are traditionally attributed to paintings and other works of fine art.

Twitter / @museofranzmayer

Their narratives, details and subject matter are approached the same way a master would address a canvas. At first glance, some of these pictures don’t even look like photographs. The stylistic techniques used to capture the subject are implemented as authentically as possible — staying true to the artistic elements artists are trained in.

The compositions also invoke comparisons to different artists and art periods. Split into genres like portraiture and landscapes, artistic movements like Renaissance painting, Rococo art, and even Pre-Raphaelite works are mirrored by these photos. The images in “Vogues Like a Painting” evoke masters such as Magritte, Degas, Dalí, Botticelli and Zurbarán. Their use of light, space, color and figure drawing are mimicked by the pictures on display — making these pieces completely at home in the museum.

Of these breath-taking pictures, a gorgeous portrait of Yalitza Aparicio can also be viewed.

Twitter / @VogueMexico

This image of Yalitza Aparicio comes from a spread by the photographers Santiago & Mauricio and was published back in January 2019. The actress was the first Indigenous woman to appear on the cover of VOGUE. Displayed in the “Vogue Like a Painter” exhibit, the portrait draws comparisons to Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” The steady stare, the use of light and dark and the positioning of her body is reminiscent of the mysterious woman in the Italian master’s piece. We can even see the influence of Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits reflected in the photograph of the “Roma” star.

Debbie Smith, the curator of the “Vogue Like a Picture” exhibit spoke with VOGUE MEXICO about the inclusion of Aparicio’s portrait and how historic the actress’ fashion shoot was for the magazine, fashion and art.

“I was so shocked by the cover of Yalitza, it ‘s one of the most important things that Vogue has done in recent decades … It was impeccable. I have the file saved in my mind.”

As if these beautiful pictures weren’t enough, the exhibition also includes two dresses by Alexander McQueen — one of them never before displayed — as well as another three gowns by Comme des Garçons, Christian Lacroix and Nina Ricci. These pieces were borrowed especially for the “Vogue Like a Painting” exhibit. If you can get to Mexico City for this show, definitely give it a look. It is without a doubt one of the most historic mixtures of art and fashion to be seen today.

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