The third floor of King Street Station has a profusion of open space, which makes it the perfect backdrop for “BorderLands,” a show that confronts nationalism, identity and immigration through the creative vision of nine artists. Some of the artists single out the hypocrisy in American policy regarding minorities.
Pedro Lasch’s “Flag Fusions (Abstract Nationalism/National Abstraction)” is the anchor of the show. Hanging from the ceiling, the nylon flags are a combination of national flags from four different countries. Lasch created the juxtaposition of the patriotic symbols to get viewers to question the relationships among nations. Forty-eight total flags represent 192 countries from across the globe.
Henry Luke’s murals deliver a message with razor sharp precision. In 2-foot tall letters, one states, “AMERICAN TERRORISTS DECLARE MUSLIM BAN.” Luke is inspired by the current wave of protest art. He said U.S. government actions have overwhelmingly defined terrorism.
“This supposed threat of terrorism is used as justification for numerous wars of aggression and the wholesale murder of civilians across the world,” Luke said. “While this violence is often justified as ‘defense,’ I view it as the most sophisticated and well-funded form of terrorism on earth.”
Luke went on to say he wanted visitors to recognize critiquing policies such as the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival or the Muslim ban isn’t enough. Rather, the underlying framework of colonialism and imperialism must be addressed.
Just a few steps away, Carina A. del Rosario’s installation “Passport Office” pivots away from the traditional identity markers one would find on the document often used for international travel. Instead of showing one’s date and place of birth, del Rosario had participants share their cultural and gender identity as well as dates of importance.
“I want to show that there are many things that we share as individuals,” del Rosario said. “And we might have things in common with other people who don’t look like us and yet we all just want to be whole.”
“Passport Office” also includes an interactive area where people can fill out their own passports.
As visitors walk through the space, the show reminds them that they are on Indigenous land.
The creation of the show began months ago, but its opening is timely. In the current political landscape, our borders — how we defend them, who is allowed in and who is kept out — often dominate local and national headlines. The elected leaders of Seattle and state officials have made their stance on the matter clear: All are welcome whether you were born here or not.
Produced by Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, “BorderLands” is also a visual extension of the city proclamation as a sanctuary city and its stated commitment to racial equity.
“What we do every day don’t align with the national administration. So that was a lot of the conversation,” Curator Kristen Ramirez said. “We are really looking at doing all of our work with a lensof race and social justice. How do we support artists, how do we support this art ecosystem with that lens. So everything about the show aligned with that statement and that’s what we’re doing.”
Artist Satpreet Kahlon’s installation includes three white pillows with the words “live,” “laugh” and “love” in cursive black thread. One might expect the trope to be followed by quaint advice but that’s not Kahlon’s style. “Self as State/Self as Self” is ethereal and gives the illusion of simplicity, but upon closer examination the words of wisdom following each word go much deeper: “Laugh like you feel valued, seen and respected by White heteronormative patriarchal societal structure.”
“It’s not easy being an artist, and it’s even harder to be a woman artist and even harder yet to be a woman artist of color.”
Within “BorderLands” is another show of equally intriguing and exemplary art. “And She Persisted: Voices of Women Artists” is a showcase of work from 38 artists. Tariqa Waters, C. Davida Ingram, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker and Deborah Faye Lawrence are a few of the artists in the show. The majority are women of color.
All of the art is part of the city’s collection with the exception of one piece. Curator Deborah Paine refers to the exhibition as her swan song as she prepares to retire next month. Paine is proud to be able to amplify the voices of women making powerful statements via quilting, giclée and photographs.
“It’s not easy being an artist, and it’s even harder to be a woman artist and even harder yet to be a woman artist of color,” Paine said. “Because they have persisted, because they’ve been so strong in their intent and their desire to create artwork, I think their voices need to be heard.”
Because King Street is still an active Amtrak station, both shows have been viewed by wandering passengers. Ramirez said staff received de-escalation training so they’d be prepared to handle people who may be triggered. Ramirez said they’ve had mostly positive feedback, and she has only encountered one aggressive person.
In the final weeks of the exhibition, the Office of Arts and Culture is hosting several programs, which include a workshop and artist talk with Lasch.
The artists in “BorderLands” are tackling complex issues and challenging conventional notions. With the prodding of Lasch, Ramirez and the team created a resource center for visitors. Artists recommended book titles to further explore themes presented in the show.
“I think it’s really important to remember that this administration, what’s happening right now, is only an exaggeration of the status quo,” Kahlon said. “All this stuff that has been happening and is going to continue to happen.”
WHAT: “BorderLands” and “And She Persisted”
WHERE: Top floor of King Street Station, 303 S. Jackson St.
WHEN: Runs until Oct. 29, open First Thursday 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Saturdays Noon – 6 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge, Facebook
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