23 June 2008

Fences and Walls

Nogales Fence - U.S. Side
AP photo by John Miller

This week I'm starting out on a new printmaking journey, a series about borders. I'm especially interested in political borders, past and present, where human beings have built fences or walls in order to keep out other human beings.

I'm starting close to home with the 1,952 mile-long (3141 km) U.S.-Mexico border. Currently a series of unconnected separation fences exist, mostly in urban areas. Around five thousand people have died or been killed trying to cross the border in the last thirteen years, according to a document created by the Human Rights National Commission of Mexico, as the fencing in urban areas forces illegal immigrants to attempt desert crossings.

In October 2006, President Bush signed a law authorizing and partially funding the construction of an additional 700 miles (1,125 km) of physical fence/barriers. Objections to the fencing as proposed include charges that it would divide three Native American nations, would divide the University of Texas at Brownsville into two parts, and will block river access and destroy essential vegetation for many native and migratory species.

The longest portion of the new fence, 361 miles, would be along the Arizona-Mexico border. I've selected a satellite view of the border at the popular border city of Nogales, Mexico, which is separated from her sister city, Nogales, AZ, by a 15-foot high fence. A great article by Kevin Clarke about the effects of the fence on Nogales can be found by clicking here.


The satellite view I've chosen as my starting point is at the eastern portion of Nogales where you can see that the Mexico side of the city is much more densely populated than the U.S. side. The current fence, surplus from the Gulf War, was erected in 1995 and is so effective that most who want to cross now head east a few miles out of the city where the fence trails off. Also to the east of Nogales about 30 miles is the place where the Spanish explorer Coronado crossed into what we now call the American southwest in his search for the fabled city of gold, Cibola.

Coronado's route

I'm hoping to work a little more loosely with this print than I did with the Three Prophets. I have some visual elements I may include (fence climbers, border helicopters, conquistadors), but I'm not sure yet how they'll all fit together. The prints will be 22" x 14" (56 x 35.5 cm) on 26" x 19" Japanese paper.

Hillside houses in Nogales, Mexico


Annette Haines said...

With your interest in borders, I thought I would share this site with you http://www-personal.umich.edu/~sskarsga/

It's not printmaking per se (or maybe it is, in some way), but the artist is also a graphic designer, printmaker, and renowned calligrapher. Enjoy, and good luck on your new project. Your last was stunning to say the least.

Denise said...

Hi, I've been watching your progress with the 3 prophets its been illuminating. Can I suggest you look at Offas Dyke and Hadrians Wall both in the UK. I am especially interested in Offas Dyke (http://www.offasdyke.demon.co.uk/dyke.htm), I'm a Londoner living in Wales( the English are seen as invaders here). But these are both ancient borders and the comparison with what is happening in the States now is interesting. I also recently saw 'The acts-Vigia' by Jill Greenhalgh about the disappearance of Women in Juarez, Mexico. This was very disturbing, I already knew about what was going on there, its been written about in the media but I also have friends who are Mexican who discuss it. However, nothing prepared me for this silent but powerful testimony by Women. I'll be watching with interest, let me know if I can do anything to help. D

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Looks quite quite a project and the prints are BIG, you must have mad printing skills.Coincidently, I have walked portions of both Offas Dyke and Hadrian's wall and they are very cool. Then there is the Great Wall (of China)..........

Annie B said...

Thanks for these wonderful links to projects and sites having to do with borders and walls. A wall of daffodils is my kind of wall. I had forgotten about the various walls in Great Britain's history - very rich. And yes, the Great Wall of China beckons, too.

Kip said...

I reviewed your comments on the borders and wall series and am excited that such a talented artist has taken up the subject. As a lifelong resident of the border and a resident for the last 20 years in Ambos Nogales who looks at the "Line" every morning going out my door to work, I would humbly suggest, however, that the true depth of this paradox cannot be appreciated via arial photography and op-ed pieces. Ambos Nogales is a "community" that has lived both because of and in spite of The "Fence" since the 1880's. The ties run long and deep for generations on both sides and our "border culture" always receives short shrift in favor of slanted sensationalism like that to which you refer. Several of Mr. Clarke's comments are accurate but several are not. For example, both Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora are built on a series of hills (picture San Francisco partly in the first world and partly in the third world with a fence running down the middle of Van Ness). All the houses sit around the old part of town as if in an amphitheater with the "fence" running through the arena below. The fence is particularly beatufiul and haunting at night with hundreds of staduim lights shining on it across the hills.
I would love to give you the opportunity to come to Nogales and experience the place first-hand. By way of this, i would like to invite you here. Should you feel comfortable, you are welcome to stay in my guest room on your visit. Feel free to contact me and we can work out the logistics

Annie B said...

Hi Kip,
Thanks so much for your insights direct from Nogales! I totally agree with you that "the true depth of this paradox cannot be appreciated via aerial photography and op-ed pieces." Neither, unfortunately, can it be expressed in a single piece of art, which is one reason why I like to work in series. As I work with a number of different wall/fence sites -- say, Nogales, Israel's West Bank, China's Great Wall -- I hope to uncover some truths about walls in general, about borders in general, and of course about human nature. If I were doing these to accompany a journalistic piece I might travel to the different locations in order to be accurate, but I can't afford to do that and it's not my intention to be journalistic.

That said, please feel free to direct me to any web sites or reading (online or in books) that you recommend for understanding these issues that you live with on a daily basis. I appreciate your perspective.

Phare-Camp said...

Annie you've hit on a pet peeve of mine. So many think of the US as America but before the Europeans came and divided everything up with "borders" it was the continent of America, from the farthest reaches of Canada to the tiny tip of Central America it was America, and really still is. If you look at the HRW World Atlas at http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/world.htm it's labeled North America-period. Even Native Americans get into argument about this one. Canadian Natives are disgusted with US Natives that forget they are Native American's too...and I have a friend that was a professor at an American Indian College who was constantly being told he wasn't Native--he was from the Tarascan tribe of Michoacán. To me those borders mean nothing--we are all Americans and what ever happens to one effects us all...

Amie Roman said...

On an ironic note about borders, there was a little news piece recently regarding the golf course at Aroostook Valley Country Club which lies on the Maine-New Brunswick border. I am intrigued that the problem is one of convenience, really, but that it still illustrates border politics.

Annie B said...

Patti, you make some excellent points. I was looking at some old European maps of North America and that's just what they labeled it - "North America" or just "America." Thanks for the reminder to include something about the native societies of Arizona/Mexico in this print.

Amie, what an incredible story about the golf course! (New print ideas.) Thank God for the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. I rest so much better at night knowing that mobs of scheming Canadian golfers will no longer be pouring willy-nilly into New England.