JUAN BARROSO: Mano de Obra

Jan 9th - Feb 5th, 2023

My work is about Mexican labor and the plight, struggle, hope, and heritage of Mexican immigrants. With the current political administration enforcing policies that dehumanize and force immigrants into the shadows, recognizing an immigrant’s humanity is vital. Notions of us or them deteriorate and it becomes clear that we are all working and fighting to provide a shelter and a decent meal for ourselves, and often a family. As the son of immigrant parents, I hope to pay homage to my people and the dignity of their labor. I mix 2-dimensional imagery, influenced by personal narratives, with 3-dimensional functional forms. I paint images with black under glaze, a small brush, and a pointillism technique. I chose pointillism on functional vessels because the process is time-consuming and labor intensive. My wrists and neck hurt after thousands of dots placed with care and accuracy to produce an image. The process becomes an act of devotion. I cannot think of a better way to show my respect and admiration for my people and their will to survive than with labor of love and time invested.

This limited decal series started with a trip to a local strawberry farm near Humboldt, Tennessee. It was a beautiful day when I got to hear the stories of the migrant workers there. As they picked strawberries, they spoke mostly of their families back home in Mexico, the other jobs they’ve done to send money to their families, and the knee pain they ignore to keep working. After hearing their stories, I photographed them. I used one of those photos to create a graphite drawing which would then be photographed and turned into a decal for ceramics. It has been my hope that my work may help humanize the immigrant and the dignity of their labor, labor that often goes unnoticed or unappreciated. The use of a decal offers a way to make more pieces with images capable of starting conversations about immigrants and their role in society. After that trip to the strawberry farm, I haven’t looked at fruits in the store or on my table the same way. I think of their stories, their hope, the pain, and the heat of the sun. I also recognize the privilege of working indoors, and the privilege of being able to share these stories with you.

Mano de Hobra will be up on site through January 29, 2023. Purchased work will be available for pick and to be shipped Monday, January 30, 2023.