Culture

Meet The Artist Who Pays Latino Day Laborers To Be Subjects In His Paintings

525w22 / Instagram

Meet John Sonsini.

A Los Angeles-based artist who originally hails from New York, Sonsini has spent more than a decade painting Latino day laborers.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Sonsini originally focused on painting nudes, but a conversation with a day laborer took him in a new direction.

#johnsonsini @525w22

A photo posted by Suzanne Unrein (@stunrein) on

In 2001, Sonsini was painting in his Los Angeles studio when he struck up a conversation with a Latino day laborer who was cleaning outside. After learning that the man performed odd jobs, Sonsini decided to hire the laborer for an hourly rate with a new very odd job — as his artistic subject.

The day laborer, Gabriel, soon became Sonsini’s partner in crime.

#JohnSonsini #amerigermceneryyohe #oiloncanvas #painting #art #artist #artofinstagram #colorcombo

A photo posted by Vincent Maxime Daudin (@soune21) on

Soon, Sonsini was painting other day laborers too.

sonsini-painting
Credit: John Sonsini / artsy.net

“It was my partner Gabriel’s idea to approach the guys gathering for work in the neighborhood of our studio. So the notion of painting dayworkers grew entirely out of my need to have sitters who were available to work daily in the studio,” he said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

Sonsini’s pays his subjects which can sit for him as long as two weeks.

#johnsonsini @525w22 opening 2/11. Incredible stature. We are a country of immigrants. #contmporaryart #chelsea

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“I always pay my sitters, because this is work, and I like it to be treated as work,” said Sonsini in an interview with The Stranger.

Why is Sonsini drawn to day laborers? Because he can relate.

#johnsonsini #ameringermceneryyohe

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Sonsini told The Stranger, “Anyone who’s out on the street in the middle of the day looking for work, yes, that’s my kind of person, because that’s what I was doing at that age.”

If you look at enough of his work, you’ll notice lots of defiant stares and somber expressions.

In each of Sonsini’s paintings, the subject’s eyes definitely tell a story. Is it defiance? Bravery? The audacity to move to a new land with only a few items in a suitcase? This powerful image of Louie poignantly shows that some of these men own only the literal shirts on their back.

What does it all mean? It’s up to you.

Although he has focused on painting day laborers for more than a decade, Sonsini says he’s not trying to send a specific message in his work. “Sometimes I try to recreate a facial expression, or bodily gesture, but I try to steer away from trying to convey anything personal or biographical about the sitter. I like all that to be very open, far preferring the viewer to make of it what they will,” said Sonsini to The Huffington Post.

Are you a fan of these Latino day laborer paintings? If you want to share the power of art, hit the share button below!

Heated Protesters At A Colorado ICE Facility Replace The American Flag With The Mexican Flag In A Show Of Defiance

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Heated Protesters At A Colorado ICE Facility Replace The American Flag With The Mexican Flag In A Show Of Defiance

The conflict at America’s southern border proves to be more and more horrific as containment continues. Now, with ICE raids having started over the weekend, more activists are getting in the mix to protest the existence of these facilities and their abusive treatment of migrants. On Friday, protesters camped outside of ICE detention centers around the nation, ready for rallies to denounce further internment of migrants from Central America and other foreign nations.

One of these protests is receiving national attention because of how demonstrators handled the facility’s United States flag.

Protesters at the Aurora, Colorado facility removed the American flag on display outside the building and replaced it with the flag of Mexico.

Twitter / @RealSaavedra

American flags are always flown outside of government buildings. A “Blue Lives Matter” flag was also removed and replaced. The flag was hoisted upside down on its pole with the words “Abolish ICE” spray painted upon it.

The DENVER POST reported that the demonstration was just one part of a nationwide event called Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps. The events were aimed at protesting the scheduled onslaught of ICE raids that are planned for the coming weeks. The event’s goal was also to expose the human rights violations being committed against the detained migrants.

The altered flags did not fly for long. Armed guards quickly removed the Mexican and defaced “Blue Lives Matter” flags and replaced them with another US flag and the Colorado state flag.

Still, the brief act of defiance caught Twitter’s attention and nobody was happy about it.

Twitter / @charliekirk11

Conservatives and Republicans were quick to see this as an act of treason. This Twitter user claimed that the Democratic goal for the next election year was to “Make America Mexico.” This isn’t the point that protesters were trying to make but it is one that was assumed by  Conservative Twitter. Many far-right Twitter accounts have since referred to this act as proof of an “invasion” as opposed to immigration.

This account relied on a racist mantra in response to the Mexican flag swap.

Twitter / @TrumpStudents

Often times when citizens criticize the United States, conservatives respond with the old adage “If you don’t like it here, leave.” That’s how this Trump Student Twitter handle responded. However, this is our country too and, instead of abandoning it, protesters and activists want to make it more inclusive and more harmonious. Besides, protesting against tyranny is just about as American a tradition can get.

Still, there were others disappointed by this swap. Central American and Latinx Twitter were quick to point out the hypocrisy.

Twitter / @_danalvarenga

Many pointed out that the Mexican government is just as responsible for the death, brutality, and confinement of Central American migrants as the United States is. Salvadoran journalist, Daniel Alvarenga, tweeted his disapproval of the Mexican flag swap by pointing out that this act is not the solidarity that activists should be showing towards migrant communities. The Mexican flag, he points out, is also a symbol of death to many Central American people.

This Twitter user glibly suggested that the presence of the Mexican flag meant that activists were acknowledging Mexico’s role in the deaths of thousands of Central Americans.

Twitter /@EarlsxLips

This fact is often dismissed but migrants traveling through Mexico to seek asylum in the US are often treated despicably by Mexican officials. They are denied shelter, resources and are quickly hastened to the Mexican-American border. They are not given any sort or comfort or safety in Mexico. Central America migrants also face discrimination and hatred from Mexican nationals — making their trip even more difficult.

Another Twitter user observed that people from the Latinidad are often lumped together under one incorrect classification.

Twitter / @TheHoesherJew

This tweet points out that not all Latinx folk are Mexican. Flying the Mexican flag erases the fact that most people in these southern border facilities are not from Mexico. It perpetuates a bigoted assumption and is probably not the message activists wanted to send.

The takeaway? The suffering of our Central American familia needs to be acknowledged instead of capitalized upon for a photo op with a flag of their oppressors. The United States government isn’t the only one to harm these migrants and we should remember that going forward as we try to ally and advocate with the migrant community.

Fear And Anxiety Grip Undocumented Community Nationwide As Walmart Arrests Escalate

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Fear And Anxiety Grip Undocumented Community Nationwide As Walmart Arrests Escalate

icegov / Instagram

As our country protests what is happening on the southern border–children in cages without enough food, water or even a bed to sleep on, separated from their family–fear of ICE reaches nationwide. In a Vermont town, undocumented immigrants and allies rallied outside Burlington Church on July 2nd, demanding an end to those very child internment camps. While showing solidarity for migrants at the border, they took the opportunity to speak up for the undocumented members of their community recently arrested while shopping at Walmart.

Three Vermont dairy workers were arrested within a single month. All arrests were made while grocery shopping at Walmart.

Undocumented organizer, Zully Palacios carried a sign with all three of their faces.

Credit: @farmworkerjustice / Twitter

Palacios herself is risking her status by speaking out, and still, she is a spokesperson for Migrant Justice. She told Vermont’s Seven Days, “As we read about what’s happening on the southern border, we must not forget what’s happening here, on the northern border.”

Federal data proves that ICE arrests have escalated under Trump’s administration.

Credit: icegov / Instagram

“These three members of our community were going about their lives, fulfilling their daily needs, shopping for food, sending money to their families in Mexico,” she told the outlet. “For that, they were detained and now find themselves behind bars.”

Ismael Mendez-Lopez, Mario Diaz-Aguilar, and Ubertoni Aguilar-Montero were stopped in the parking lot.

Credit: @TheBaxterBean / Twitter

The three went to Walmart both to buy groceries and to wire money to their families back in Mexico. Before they did that, a U.S. Border Patrol agent in an unmarked car stopped them in the parking lot. They spoke briefly and went on their way. The agent followed them. After they finished shopping at Walmart, they were arrested for not having paperwork on them. 

They’re currently being held in a New Hampshire county jail pending ICE deportation proceedings.

Credit: @Articleableinfo / Twitter

A spokesperson for Border Patrol confirmed that they were arrested “based on the information from a concerned citizen.” This was the same reason for seven undocumented farmworker arrests outside that same Walmart Supercenter since February 2018. Matt Cameron, an immigration attorney, believes that these “concerned citizens” are actually informants.

Migrant workers in Vermont are struggling to feed themselves for fear of arrest.

Credit: walmart / Instagram

A newly published research study shows that each ICE raid or arrest creates an environment of fear that tangibly affects the rest of the roughly 1,500 migrant farmworkers in Vermont. They’re afraid that every trip to go get groceries might be one they never come home from.

All it takes is one racist shopper calling ICE because they saw a brown person.

Credit: icegov / Instagram

Just like how all it took was one customer complaint to report to Dunkin’ Donuts that they suspect undocumented workers. Now, Dunkin’ is suing its own franchise owners in a massive company crackdown on hiring undocumented workers.

Trump has confirmed that ICE raids will result in thousands of arrests Sunday.

Credit: realdonaldtrump / Instagram

Roberto Suro, a public policy professor at the University of Southern California suspects that, while Sunday will deport .2 percent of those with deportation orders, the true attack is “purely psychological.” He told the Los Angeles Times, “This is yet one more example of how the Trump administration is trying to use fear as an instrument of immigration control. It generates a lot of fear and anxiety but not a lot of control. This has nothing to do with actual enforcement.”

The ICE raids are designed to cause fear for immigrants and to appease Trump’s right-wing base.

Credit: realdonaldtrump / Instagram

After news surfaced that a raid was on its way, Trump revealed to reporters on Friday that it would be a “major operation.” “One audience is supposed to feel like something is happening,” Suro said, “and the other is supposed to be scared to death.”

Since then, immigrants across the country have called out of work, further destabilizing the community.

Credit: @CosechaMovement / Twitter

Activist tip hotlines have received an influx of calls, and an advocacy group in New York has already submitted a preemptive lawsuit. The more fear he creates, the more satisfied his base will be after his failure to deliver “The Wall.”

READ: If ICE Raids Dairy Farms, It Could Make Your Gallon Of Milk $8

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