America was born with the congenital disease of slavery, and, legal or illegal, it has never left us. Today, we are still conflicted about our slave-holding past and its ugly aftermath. We study it, lament it, and argue it as a haunting presence from our darker history. Yet, while we were looking the other way, slavery in America evolved into a whole new beast that lives in secret among us and feeds on ignorance and misery. Only through our awareness and concern, can it be driven out.
Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people around the world, and here in the United States. Go behind the façade in any major town or city today and you are likely to find a thriving commerce in human beings. You may even find slavery in your own back yard. Not all slavery in America involves undocumented immigrants. Some victims are born and raised in the United States and find themselves pressed into slavery by deception or sheer violence. Some are hidden from view while others are hiding in plain sight.
This body of work explores recent human trafficking cases in the United States and each painting is a visual re-enactment of a particular case. My research is derived from the University of Michigan School of Laws human trafficking database, which is a website detailing hundreds of American slavery cases that have occurred within the past decade.
The paintings appear opaque from a distance, yet when the viewer steps in for a closer look, the figures of slaves become visible.
I am drawn to the arts because the creative process can act as a means to discuss social problems and other important issues. I invite the viewer to step in for a closer look because I feel that it is vital to look again, more closely, at the problems that confront us. In this way, growth and intervention can be achieved.