ECOS: Resonances of South Carolina Latino Stories & Susan Harbage Page: Between the River and the Wall
ECOS: Resonances of South Carolina Latino Stories
Susan Harbage Page: Between the River and the Wall
February 18 – April 9, 2021
Ecos (echoes) is a collaborative and multisensory art exhibition inspired by narratives of Latino immigrants in South Carolina. This traveling exhibition opened at the Columbia Museum of Art in July of 2018, and we are excited to present it to our community.
This project has its origins in the work of Marina López and Kerry Taylor of the Citadel Oral History Program. In 2013, they began collecting oral histories of Latino immigrants from the South Carolina Lowcountry with the dual purpose of documenting their contributions to the culture and economy of the region and elevating the public dialogue on matters of immigration, work, education, and democracy. They selected 19 Latino artists residing in the state and commissioned them to create visual art based on some of their most memorable narratives. The participating artists have roots in several countries, from Mexico to Brazil.
Ecos underscores the multiple meanings the viewer/listener may derive from the stories and the art. Oral historians often refer to the concept of shared authority to describe the ways in which oral histories are co-created by the narrator and the interviewer. The exchange of questions, memories, and reflections shapes the oral history. Ecos extends that authority to the visual artists, who bring their unique visions and styles to the stories. They provide new ways to appreciate the stories and suggest new connections and meanings.
The exhibition is organized in three sections: Ecos from the Other Side of the River, Ecos from the Border and Ecos in a New Land. They evoke the immigrant artists’ movements across time and space, while affirming their humanity. Ecos is an invitation to appreciate the work of Latino artists and to value the lives of Latino immigrants. It is an assertion that they and their stories belong to the history of South Carolina. The art and narratives in Ecos: Resonances of South Carolina Latino Stories are wide ranging in tone and imagery – joyous, colorful, solemn, monochromatic, soaring birds and bowed heads.
For more information about this exhibition, the art and artists, and to hear their stories, please click HERE!
Between The River And The Wall – Since 2007, Susan Harbage Page has been making yearly trips to walk the border and photograph objects left behind by undocumented migrants crossing the U.S–Mexico border between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, TX. Her work takes an ever-evolving place, a demarcation, and brings the reality to the fore as a collection of specific objects, first as they are found and photographed in the landscape, then as they are re-photographed against colorful backdrops and archived as they might be in a museum collection. The documentation of the objects and photographs gathered over time become a new way to look at how the militarization of the border plays out in this contested space. The objects all have incomplete and layered narratives attached to them. Objects, such as lipstick, eye shadow, or a man’s sweatshirt, offer stories of self-care, normalcy, or someone trying to “fit in” after they have crossed the Rio Grande on a black inner tube and changed into dry clothes before being taken to a safe house in Brownsville, TX. A found comb or toothbrush is a sure sign that someone has been picked up by the Border Patrol (anything short and hard is seen as a potential weapon). These present-day archeological artifacts reflect incomplete narratives and a history of flight, surveillance, and fear. Our histories are typically told through the objects saved and owned by the privileged. The “Anti-Archive” resists tradition by saving and archiving objects left behind by anonymous immigrants coming into the U.S. from Mexico.
Harbage Page’s newest work from a trip to the border in 2019, documents the humanitarian crisis brought on by asylum seekers fleeing violence in Honduras and Guatemala. From a December 2019 article in Vox: Thousands of refugees have been forced to live in squalid conditions in some of the most dangerous parts of Mexico. They are under threat from drug cartels and dependent on American volunteers for even the most basic necessities. The lack of aid has created a sprawling tent city, some held up by only sticks and stones, that stands between them and the elements, even as temperatures drop below freezing. The encampments are clustered around bridges linked to US ports of entry along the Rio Grande or in Matamoros where families and children have been waiting for a chance to apply for asylum for months. Matamoros is a dangerous place due to high rates of violent crime, kidnapping, and robbery.
Harbage Page makes what is an abstraction to many of us, difficult for the viewer to avoid because of the emotion and humanity inherent in the scenes and objects she documents.
The Sumter County Gallery of Art has, for many years, presented beautiful art that pleases the eye, and art that challenges and generates emotional responses or quiet reflection. In these modern times, marked by cultural and sociopolitical division – or coming together, art museums have assumed a central roll in presenting art grounded in these issues.