Tuesday, February 14, 2017

UIS Visual Arts Gallery exhibit "Safe Harbor: Work by Diaz Lewis" spotlights immigration reform

The University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery presents “Safe Harbor: Work by Diaz Lewis”. Diaz Lewis - the collaborative duo comprised of Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera and Cara Megan Lewis - creates art that address themes of immigration and prompts social change. The exhibit, featuring their latest project, “34,000 Pillows”, will open with a reception on Thursday, March 2 and run through Thursday, April 13.

In conjunction with their exhibition reception, Diaz Lewis will present a UIS Engaged Citizen Common Experience (ECCE) lecture titled “Diaz Lewis: Artivism and Immigration Reform” on March 2 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Brookens Auditorium.

Their talk will center on “34,000 Pillows” which was developed in response to the Congressional “detention-bed mandate,” a statutory quota that enforces Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain at least 34,000 immigrants every day in over 250 private prisons and county jails across the country.

To materialize the human impact of the mandate, Diaz Lewis is creating a pillow to represent every designated bed and each immigrant detained as a result of the mandate. The pillows are comprised of articles of clothing donated by undocumented immigrants, prior detainees, and their allies. In an attempt to symbolically “buy back” the 34,000 beds for one single day, 100% of the funds raised from sales of the pillows are going towards alternatives to the bed mandate, and organizations whose efforts restore human dignity such as Human Rights Watch and Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants.

Immediately following the lecture, an exhibition reception will take place at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“Safe Harbor: Work by Diaz Lewis” prompts participation from our campus community and beyond. “34,000 Pillows” is an open invitation to anyone who wants to contribute to the process by creating a pillow design, donating clothing, deconstructing clothing, or purchasing a pillow. Since the project’s inception in early 2016, over 300 students and individuals have participated in the project by bringing donations of materials and participating in the creation of pillow designs. A design workstation will be located directly outside of the UIS Visual Arts Gallery throughout the exhibition run and is open to the public. An ever-growing pile of pillows, the art installation translates a human experience that statistics alone cannot.

Diaz Lewis met in 2012 and worked across the divide between Cuba and the U.S. Now based in Los Angeles, their practice as artists and activists is fueled by deconstructing social processes and the symbols and politics behind them. In the selection of topics such as rhetoric, immigration or property rights, they dissect relevant themes from two distinct and often opposing angles. Recent exhibitions include “Home Land Security” For Site Foundation, San Francisco (2016); “Soul Asylum” Weinberg Newton Gallery, Chicago (2016); “A Dream Deferred” Aspect/Ratio, Chicago (2015); “Cul De Sac” Mission Gallery, Chicago (2015); and “The Other’s Voice” Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival, Chicago (2014). Diaz Lewis were most recently artists-in-residence at the Chicago Cultural Center at the end of 2016 with the support of the Joyce Foundation.

The Visual Arts Gallery is centrally located on the UIS campus in the Health and Science Building, Room 201. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit the UIS Visual Arts Gallery website at www.uis.edu/visualarts/gallery or contact the gallery at 217/206-6506 or alach@uis.edu.

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