October 2, 2020 - January 24, 2021
“The United” examines the incredibly complicated topic of immigration in a time when immigration systems are in crisis — affecting many of us closely, as members of diverse communities, as descendants of immigrants, or as immigrants ourselves. The exhibition with artwork from 12 artists from Belgium, Northern Ireland, Russia and the US explores the possibilities for proactive engagement with immigration issues, reconfiguring the status and function of art from passivity to active agency. Curated by Johanna Lasner
While seeking a global understanding of the impact of the pandemic, we are also experiencing a number of core issues—such as labor conditions, migration, xenophobia, and racism; which, far from being new, became blatant and more urgent amid the pandemic. The United presents extraordinary and poignant glass art by twelve artists from varying practices and geographical perspectives exploring the complex topic of immigration.
Immigration systems are in crisis, affecting many of us closely, as members of diverse communities, as descendants of immigrants, or as immigrants ourselves. Presented at a time that coincides with presidential and congressional election campaigns in the United States, the exhibition directly responds to this historical moment by examining the ways in which power is constructed, broadcasted and enacted. However in contrast to the narratives of oppressive power associated with the movement of people, the exhibition mainly considers a message of resilience, hope and resistance, in which power is associated with reciprocity rather than domination. We hope to inspire and come together as an interconnected active community through participation, by being responsive to current concerns; and even more so, by supporting and celebrating diversity.
Migration is fundamentally the story of the human race from its origins to the present. It is an integral aspect of life, it is part of our human experience. Migration has ranged from journeys of a few miles to epic travels across oceans and continents. Drought, plagues, floods, famine or other natural disasters have triggered forced migration. Mankind has provoked unwilling migration through the formation of empires and colonies, horrific practices of slavery, genocide, human trafficking, war and exile. With forced migration you do not have the luxury of making choices. Generally though, people choose to emigrate to survive. They move in search of food, towards life opportunities, the pursuit of dreams, to escape from danger and death, to find reasons to hope even in the most adverse circumstances. When you talk about immigration, you are talking about the second half of a process that begins when people decide to leave their homes, usually driven by often desperate reasons.
Many means of migration are similar to ancient methods of travel. More recently, movement of people has occurred via containers, by foot, rickety boats, and trucks. Attempts to migrate have also included hiding in the wheel wells of airplanes. As movement is restricted by the building of man made barriers including lengthy walls, razor wire fences, land mines, and technology, people turn to those who possess the resources to move them around these barriers, but then sometimes tragically find themselves in facing the consequences of debt, and bondage. These circumstances may be nothing though compare to the risk and fragility of life. Nation’s borders have become spaces of violence and injustice, where unlawful detainment, deportation and separation exist, which unfortunately often leads to an even harsher reality than one could have ever imagined. On the other hand, the immigration experience has been of great social, economic, and cultural benefit to many countries throughout the world. The immigration debate is a timeless one. It can be divisive. There are a myriad of ethical issues and questions which should be discussed. Increasingly, however, immigration has become a topic of intense public debate, with significant political and social disagreements over its place in the human experience. Immigration affects both the communities that migrants leave and the communities where they are received. How people interact with these types of sensibilities, and are affected by their environment can be explored by closely linking to knowledge of self, to grasping one‘s position in the larger scheme of things, including one‘s community, and to securing a confident sense of identity.
Memory, history, and sociopolitical-cultural constructs coexist within the same space of art and identity. These intersections only corroborate nature’s inextricable links to an interdisciplinary world, where we can no longer isolate art from colonization, science, economics, politics, nature, culture, technology, legislature, human rights, essentially the human experience. This project, The United, delves into the question of how critical art may answer to the fabrication of an immigration system that addresses inequality, human rights violations, and exclusion.
When discussing ethics in the context of immigration, it is important to remember first and foremost that migration is about the movement of people. Because the ethics of immigration highlight the tension between individuals, nations and cultures, these discussions should always begin and end with the acknowledgement of the humanity of those who are moving and those who do not move. The human condition is complex, as are the reasons for migration. The United is a project conceived within humanitarian values, as we want to acknowledge and identify immigrant groups or the subject of immigration in our community, country and the world. Humanitarianism as a pro-social orientation, is a force of responsibility that mobilizes empathy, superimposing a relationship of benevolence over the routine and intended character of enforcement violence, and the darker system of racial regulation of movement and labor to which immigration law contributes.
This project intends to remind us of the power of humanitarian discourse, which is such that even in the context of the open display of coercion in immigration law, one must respond to humanitarian initiatives. Regardless of our limitations, one may argue, or at least a connection can be made, to the start of the thought process, and a possibility of emplacing more diverse ways of belonging to and participating in our city, while the world’s future brings an opening of it’s pathways. The subject of immigration is timely and essential if art is to remain among the few public hubs where differences in culture, ideology and history can coexist. Information and exchange on immigration issues must be honest conversations, where the interests, agendas, and concerns of all members of the affected communities are addressed in the context of the collective humanity. We hope to create opportunities for reflection, dialogue and discovery, where awareness can become a form of resistance and luckily generate new content and propositions for more robust, fair and reality based immigration legislation, which leads towards a more equitable society to improve human dignity, social justice, and planetary wellbeing.
For these artists, their own migrations and those of their ancestors shape their identities and the art they produce. They reflect on presence and belonging over contention and the search for origins and establishing roots. This is the right to inhabit a space, and not just to consume it as an experience or remain labeled by their condition as immigrants. With the notion of home, the artists examine trauma and intergenerational hurt and attempt to reconstruct an influential place for healing, inspiration and freedom. Glass is a graceful medium full of contradictions, vulnerability and transparency. Glass has an important place in Art, or vice versa, “Art is the magic mirror you make to reflect your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul” (George Bernard Shaw).
Immigration is in dire need of reform, of a more compassionate and thoughtful understanding of how to handle cross-border human mobility worldwide, that is sensitive and respectful to well-meaning migrants, permanent or temporary, whatever their reasons for wanting to move. What does it mean to have a safe, humanitarian and orderly migration system with responsive laws that respect and maintain human dignity? The hope is that any discussion will be open and creative in order to promote an ethical response to immigration in the world today.
Let us be proud of our immigrant heritage and honor our longstanding moral leadership in providing support to migrant and refugee populations around the globe. We invite you to join and share the vulnerable and victorious stories of strong, resilient individuals and families striving to make a new home in an unfamiliar place.
Learn More About Immigration from Jewish Family and Community Services and City of Asylum (click to expand)
JEWISH FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES (JFCS) is dedicated to supporting people throughout the Greater Pittsburgh region through all of life's changes and challenges.
CITY OF ASYLUM'S mission is to protect, celebrate, and build community on creative freedom of expression. We provide sanctuary to endangered literary writers, so that they can continue to write and their voices are not silenced. We are currently hosting 5 artists in exile in PGH’s north side neighborhood, which makes us the largest writer sanctuary in the world! We celebrate freedom of expression through our free, globally focused, public programs. These include concerts, literary readings, film screenings, and children’s storytelling. We feature nationally recognized performers and poets as well as amplify the voices of regional and local talent. All of our events are currently virtual and they are always free! Please visit coa.org for more information.
Najah Alboushi (Oakland, CA)
Najah Alboushi is an American-Syrian artist and writer that grew up in the midwest. She studied journalism and studio arts at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point and later went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts degree from California College of the Arts. Currently, Najah is living and working in Oakland, California as a studio technician, stained glass glazier, lampworking instructor, and independent artist.
Sandra Bacchi (Pittsburgh, PA)
Sandra Bacchi is a Brazilian photographer, based in Pittsburgh, PA. As a visual artist, she blends documentary and conceptual photography with her background in cinematography to tell her stories, weaving fiction into the truths to express more open-ended storytelling.
Sunset Blue from Seeking Nowhere
Ibraheem Basree (Columbus, OH)
My name is Ibraheem Basree and I am 23 years old. My family and I immigrated to Syria in 2004 after the U.S. invasion. Later in 2009, my family and I were lucky enough to be granted asylum in the United States. Words cannot explain how grateful I am for this opportunity, because without it, I don't believe that I would be here, practicing glass, or quite frankly alive. I studied 8th grade and freshman year of high school in Boston, MA. In 2011, my family and I moved to Columbus, OH and it has been the place that we resided in ever since. I continued high school in Columbus and moved on to higher education and received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in glass from the Ohio State University.
May Maylisa Cat (Portland, OR)
May Maylisa Cat is a multidisciplinary artist who grew up in Chicago and graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art in New York, NY. Her projects have received support from multiple grants including the Precipice Fund from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Calligram Foundation, the Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission, the New Media Fellowship from Open Signal, and grants from the Regional Arts and Culture Council of Portland, OR. May has attended residencies at Chautauqua Visual Arts, Wassaic Project, Santa Fe Art Institute, Caldera Arts, Pittsburgh Glass Center, New Media Gallery Residency at Jack Straw Cultural Center, and Glean Portland. She has spoken as a guest lecturer for Carnegie Mellon University School of Fine Art in Pittsburgh, PA and as a teaching artist for Caldera Arts in Sisters, OR. She is currently based in Portland, OR.
The Three Stupas
Tali Grinshpan (Walnut Creek, CA)
Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tali Grinshpan earned a B.A. and M.A. in Business and Psychology from Tel Aviv University. In 2004, she moved to the USA, and currently resides in Walnut Creek, California.
Art has always been a significant part in her life. A variety of mediums were a source of interest and exploration for her since childhood. Her travels around the world with her family since very young age has been an important element in her development as an artist.
Since 2011 Tali has studied glass, taking workshops at Pilchuck Glass School, WA, Corning Museum of glass, NY, Northlands Creative Glass, Scotland UK, Pittsburgh Glass Center, PA and Bullseye Resource Center in OR, NM and CA.
In 2014 and 2017, she participated in a professional residency at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA. In 2015, she was a teaching assistant for artist Saman Kalantari at the Corning Museum of Glass Studio in Corning, NY. In 2015 and 2019, she received a Scholarship for a summer session at the Studio in Corning Museum of Glass, NY. In 2015 and 2016, she received a Scholarship for a summer session at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, PA. In 2016 she participated in a professional residency at North Lands Creative Glass, Scotland, UK. In 2018 she received a scholarship to attend a master class at North Lands Creative Glass, Scotland, UK. In 2019, she was a teaching assistant for artist Alicia Lomne at the Corning Museum of Glass Studio in Corning, NY.
Her work was selected as a finalist at The International Exhibition of Glass Kanazawa Japan in 2016. She is the first prize winner of The Glass Prize 2017 international competition, UK. Her work was selected for the New Glass Review 39, publishes by Corning Museum of Glass.
Over the past few years her work has been exhibited in various national and international galleries and museums.
Somewhere / אי-שם
Alan Iwamura (Toledo, OH)
Alan Iwamura located to Toledo Ohio in 2016 from Brooklyn, New York and is currently the Glass Studio Manager at the Toledo Museum of Art. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from CSU, Fullerton and Bachelors degree in studio art and education from CSU, Chico. Iwamura has taught accredited courses in glass for many institutions including New York University (NYU), Long Island University (LIU) and The School of Visual Arts (SVA) with a recent appointment as visiting instructor, Professor of Practice, at Bowling Green State University. He is a recipient of the Leo Friedman Graduate
Fellowship, New York’s Metropolitan Glass Group Fellowship, and his artwork has been featured in exhibitions throughout the US as well as publications in Brooklyn Magazine, Vogue Japan and the New York Times.
Priscilla Kar Yee Lo (Bloomington, IL)
Growing up in an immigrant family, I was always encouraged to be practical about my future. My Chinese parents defined success as pursuing a steady career. In their eyes, art was a “waste” of time. After university, I became a Respiratory Therapist specializing in neonatal and cardiac care. Despite living up to my parents’ expectations, I did not feel a sense of fulfillment. When I was offered the opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia, I saw it as a chance to travel the world and to be submersed in a completely different culture. In my four years in Saudi Arabia, I was able to travel the world but found it very hard to adjust to the extreme culture shock. I witnessed some terrible injustices and experienced racism on a level that was foreign to me. In addition, the sexism that I faced daily was both alarming and disheartening. For the first time in my life, I truly felt like a second-class citizen. When I came home from the Middle East, I participated in various community art classes with the hopes of alleviating my angst with a creative outlet. After trying several mediums, glass left a lasting impression that soon turned into a passion.
Studying at Sheridan College allowed me to develop my artistic voice. It enabled me to use glass as a medium to convey my ideas and current concerns about the world. I believe glass is a craft-based medium and the only way to excel at expressing the medium in a meaningful way is to study under experienced artists with the same perspective and passion for the medium. By furthering my own technical skills in my Graduate studies at Illinois State University, I can better articulate and execute concepts which explore the growing and changing roles of women in our society. WEBSITE
Alexander Lozano (Dallas, TX)
Alexander Lozano, also known as Cardoza, is an artist who uses participatory art to bring attention to interpersonal relationships between people, objects and their environments that usually go unseen in a mundane life cycle. Cardoza first began working in participatory art when he created his own type of flexible glass that allowed the audience to sew, fold, cut, and write on it in effort to manipulate the work. He was born and raised in West Texas before moving to the DFW area to attend the University of Texas at Arlington where he received his Bachelors in Fine Art with a focus in glass.
Recently he has been exhibited at the Toyama International Glass Exhibition (Toyama Glass Art Museum), 2018 Craft Glass Creation & Design (Finalist, People’s Republic of China), Glass Art Society International Member Exhibition (Third Place: Murano, Italy), Workhouse Glass National 2018 (Lorton, Virginia), Spring Gallery Night Juried Exhibit (FWCAC, Fort Worth, TX).
He was a awarded The Arch and Anne Giles Kimbrough Fund (Dallas Museum of Art), CADD FUND 2019 (Finalist), Windgate Fellowship (Nomination), Juried Spotlight on Student Research Forum, Dennis and Barbara Dubois Grant/ University Of Texas At Arlington, and selected for the Undergraduate Research Day at the Capital in Austin, Texas.
Luego vinieron por mi........... and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Alison Lowry (Northern Ireland)
Alison Lowry is a glass artist living and working from her studio, ‘Schoolhouse Glass’ in Saintfield, Co. Down. In 2009 she graduated from Ulster University with a First Class Honours degree in Art and Design. Since then she has won numerous awards including first place in the category, ‘Glass Art’ at the Royal Dublin Society in 2015 and 2009, the Silver Medal at the Royal Ulster Arts Club’s Annual Exhibition in 2010, the Warm Glass Prize in 2010 and 2011 and more recently the Bronze Award at Bullseye Glass’ exhibition for emerging artists, ‘Emerge’. Alison exhibits nationally and internationally, and her work is held in several public collections. In 2016 the National Museum of Ireland acquired a large pâte de verre vessel for their ‘Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft’, while the Arts Council of Northern Ireland recently made a fourth purchase for their collection. Alison Lowry is the only Irish artist to have been awarded a month long residency (April 2014) at the Studio of the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass, Upstate New York. Her current solo exhibition, ‘(A)Dressing Our Hidden Truths’, is primarily inspired by such traumatic histories as the Tuam Mother & Baby Home, domestic violence and Ireland’s former Magdalene Laundry system. It runs at the National Museum of Ireland- Decorative Arts and History Division, at Collins Barracks in Dublin til May 2020.
John Moran (US living in TeMse, Belgium)
John Moran is a politically and socially engaged hot glass sculptor, mixed media artist, studio co-founder and operator at Gent Glas, and all around nice guy. John is an American glass and mixed media artist currently living and working in Belgium. He completed his Bachelor's of Fine Arts at Tyler School of Art, Master's of Fine Arts at Illinois State University, and is currently pursuing his Doctorate at the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art in Wroclaw, Poland. He has exhibited across the United States and Internationally.
Earth to Earth
Kristine Rumman & Lauren Fueyo (Philadelphia, PA)
Kristine Rumman is an interdisciplinary artist whose work often investigates the possibilities of what art can do that politics cannot. Comprised of sculpture, installation, performance, video, and object-making, Rumman works with technologies that are familiar forms for producing propaganda globally, ranging from security glass and empathy-inducing lighting to self-help audio tapes, olfactory praxis, and social platforms.
Rumman grew up in Toledo, the birthplace of the Studio Glass Movement, where she began her nearly two-decade-long relationship with glass. She graduated with a BFA from Bowling Green State University in 2008 and an MFA from Tyler School of Art in 2018. For her work, Rumman has received awards and grants including support from The Velocity Fund though Temple Contemporary and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Laurie Wagman Prize in Glass, and recognition from the Glass Arts Society, who named a 2019 Saxe Emerging Artist.
Kristine Rumman is presently based in Philadelphia where she is an instructor at Tyler School of Art and a new member at Vox Populi.
Lauren Fueyo is an artist, writer, performer, and educator. A tragicomic storyteller, Lauren has exhibited and performed across the United States including Amos Eno Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), the Strohl and Fowler-Kellogg Art Center (Chautauqua, NY), Pilot Projects, Practice Gallery and Vox Populi (Philadelphia, PA), Delaware County Community College (Media, PA), the Center for Visual Arts (Denver, CO), and the DePaul Art Museum (Chicago, IL). She teaches art virtually for the Chautauqua Institution, and has previously taught at Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Lauren is a 2020 Fulbright finalist, and has been a recipient of a Velocity Fund Grant for the collaborative project Strategic Communications, a Future Faculty Fellowship from Tyler School of Art, and a Presidential Scholarship from Eastern University. Lauren earned her MFA at Tyler School of Art at Temple University and her BA in Art, Media, and Design at DePaul University. Lauren is currently developing her first artist book and plans to move to Sweden this fall.
Local, (Performance installation)
Vera Sadakova (St. Petersburg, Russia)
I was born in 1988 in Kirov city (Russia). I loved art since I was a very little girl. When I graduated from high school, I chose to become an engineer in art processing of materials. I wanted to combine my artistic skills with my technical mind. In the university I put my emphasis into glass and since 2009 started to learn such technologies as a fusing, slumping, beadmaking, classical and Tiffany stained-glass windows and hot enameling. I love this material very much and couldn’t imagine my life without working with it.
After graduation I stayed at the letting-out department as a graduate student and a lecturer. Since 2010 I have been teaching at the Department of Technology and Design of Vyatka State University (Kirov city, Russia).
During the period from 2011 to 2016 I learned basic technologies of lampwork with Russian glass artist Anna Ivanova and went to the School of Art Glass of Miriam Di Fiore, in Morniko-Lozana (Italy) for a short class of advanced technologies of fusing.
In the beginning of Summer 2017 I was awarded Fulbright Fellowship for the Fall 2017 semester at San Jose State University (California, USA) where I observed glass blowing and casting class with Cassandra Straubing. Now I finished my first year at the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design where I am getting my MFA with emphasis on glass. Studying at the Academy gives me new view on this amazing material. Projects I am working at now are very important for me because they show my social position and the way I am looking at the world, also they are going to be some kind of destination point of my studies.