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Clay Sculptor in Columbus, Ohio
Master's Degree from Ohio State University.
As I write this I am traveling.
It is difficult, I think, to travel and not have some thoughts for or appreciation of the endeavor to migrate.
The international airports have airlines that represent many countries. Often accompanying these transit lines are the people from those countries. There are faces not like ours, clothes not like ours; There is a hopefulness in spirit and earnestness that I have not seen on the faces of those of us traveling from Columbus to Boston, or Portland to Dallas. At O’hare’s concourse five, clustering around the international flight desks, we can see groups of three generations, possibly four, standing around their luggage, passing the baby of the family around for last minute, last time kisses. I imagine their scenarios and I am filled with wonder at their intrepid strength. Nothing about these kinds of choices looks easy. There were kids with English skills and both American and Chinese-made toys. I imagine these kids will have the kind of knowledge and navigation skills to become our world’s future globalists. I found myself seeking out the faces of those with knitted brows, looking for the eyes marked with unspeakable worry.
I worry about the ways in which I know we are not kind.
At an exhibition about the Moon at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, I answered questions about space travel and my own personal aptitude for the future. Could I say goodbye to my family forever? Could I bet on the future and sacrifice myself, my children and my grandchildren’s lives for the sake of a journey to start a new life? For the mere possibility of a better future? I could not even answer all the qualifying questions - it was too painful to imagine.
I'm working now with a teacher who attends Columbus Mennonite Church, a sanctuary church for a woman called Edith Espinal. Edith has lived in the US for twenty years and has raised three children here, yet she is fighting deportation by living in the church and wearing an ankle bracelet - monitored by the ICE 24 /7.
I'm amazed that we’ve come to this. The breath of our smallness is excruciating. Edith’s greatest mistake was in thinking we would care about her and respect her and her family enough to give them the rights of inclusion. Of course, this must be a simplistic view. After all, those who lead this country have nuanced our righteousness in ways so complicated that it might be easier to build the iPhone 10 at your kitchen table than to understand the layers of rationalization that have led us to accept why this is right. Sarah Huckabee Saunders, perhaps the most powerful evangelical woman in Washington, supports, speaks for and interprets all of the presidents attitudes and excoriations on immigration while her two children are cared for by their Peruvian nanny. The American Catholic Church stands in surprising silence during this time of crisis, but then again, I guess the Catholic Church had little to say during the Civil Rights movement as well. A few prayerful petitions, obliquely referencing the struggles of immigrants, and that issue is covered.
It's so hard to get this right, isn't it? Who would have thought that our country’s government could round up hundreds of “illegal” children, under the cover of darkness and move them all to camps in the desert? I'm more dismayed by our complacency than I am afraid of our bully leaders. I am often reminded of the Long Walk of The Navajo, and the Trail of Tears.
I've made a black skinned eye cover baby and a two headed Harpy - as if the news from one would not be enough. Birds are small immigrants guided by patterns of migration driven by instinct - they don't understand political borders.
There are a few here with quotes. There are a couple of myopic children with flotation devices, like false hopes, and there are a couple of babies covered in tears. none of these objects speak with a clear voice.
My work is made while these issues exist and continue to bully us all and harm our dignity as Americans.
Juliellen Byrne, Nov. 11, 2018
Juliellen Byrne, Columbus, OH
Julie talking about her technique and work. Stay tuned for an updated video about Julie's political work.
Julie and I talk about some of the stories behind her work, her inspirations, life today. We are endlessly fascinating. :)