Well before the presidential race made immigration a key issue,Fordham visual arts students were hard at work on a multidisciplinary exhibition that grappled with the many challenges facing asylum seekers here in New York City.
The ensemble work is now featured in an exhibition that runs through Sept. 30 at the Ildiko Butler Gallery on the Lincoln Center campus, titled What This Journey Breeds. The project was not connected to any class, though students met in seminar with artist Amie Cunat, FCLC ’08, Fordham artist-in-residence Carleen Sheenan, and photographer Anibal Pella-Woo, lecturer in the visual arts program.
The students collaborated with the Refugee and Immigrant Fund (RIF) on the project. With concentrations in graphic design, painting and drawing, photography, architecture, and film and video, the artists put a human face to an abstract subject in this unnerving, yet hopeful, exhibition.
David Quateman, FCLC ’16, and rising junior Eamon Redpath interviewed several refugees in a short video—including Julian, a gay man from Malaysia who describes having a gun pointed at his face by the Malaysian police.
Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) sponsored several events. Students met with a lawyer from Catholic Charities, civil servants, fellow students working with refugees, and other artists that make socially conscious artwork.
Students took field trips to Brooklyn Grange, where RIF brings refugees to rooftop gardens as a respite from the stressful process of seeking asylum in the United States. Once there, James McCracken Jr., PCS ’16, shot stark black and white portraits of the asylum seekers.
A video diptych by rising senior Anabelle Declement juxtaposes two scenes: one that’s a mashup of testimonials used in the documentary, and another that presents the natural serenity of Brooklyn Grange.
The grange inspired a range of other works, including plant sculptures by rising senior Emma Kilroy and a fruit- and vegetable-stained textile created by rising senior Francesca Aton. The grange also inspired a second garden on the Lincoln Center campus designed and built by Danielle Serigano, FCLC ’16. All fruits and vegetables harvested at summer’s end will be donated to RIF. Serigano also maps a metaphorical journey through the campus garden, presented on post cards at the gallery. Student and faculty volunteers will maintain the garden through the summer.
Through architectural renderings created by Nicholas Eliades, FCRH ’16, one can imagine future meeting spaces for RIF clients. Rising senior Margaret McCauley’s collages include text, culled from the interviews, expressing why such a safe space is needed.
“Mommy thank God,” reads one. “If you didn’t leave for America, now you would be dead.”