"RIVER DEEP, MOUNTAIN HIGH"
A0 format offset print of collage of scanned, printed, scanned, printed, scanned
images I've been carrying for years within my nomadic art practice.
118.9 L X 84.1 H cm
46.8 L X 33.1 H in
"Migration of Forms"
The paternal grandfather of my mother, Alfonso Pierce, was a black man of mixed descent born in Fayetteville, West Virginia. He traveled north in the 1910s to study agricultural engineering, to escape the harsh life of a mining worker, illness, and the possible race struggle in his native village. He eventually migrated from Ohio to the east coast, boarded a ship and ended up in London where he met a redhead dancer on the set for an advertisement, Patricia Jones from Ipswich, England. They married, had a colored child, Orestes (my maternal grandfather) and eventually migrated to Manhattan, New York, before the Great Depression struck in 1929. I believe that their racially mixed relationship, along with economic difficulties, weighed on them and repeatedly violated their lives. During WWII, the 21-year-old Orestes fought in the US Army, for a country that institutionally discriminated against people like him because of their skin color. Two years after the war, his mother, Patricia, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 46, after having endured hellish pains for more than a year because the family could not afford treatment. Alfonso persisted and lived well into the nineties. The grandfather of Orestes, Harvey (the father of Alfonso, born 7 years before the Civil War which could make him a slave or a freedman), was a miner. I was told that Harvey migrated to Manhattan to find work in the construction of the current metro network.
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe places in the US in the first half of the 19th century that was used by slaves trying to escape.
The underground and the skyscraper are like two sides of the same coin: modern giants that reach into the sky and that run deep through a covered, subconscious.
The central figure in my work "Imagination Creation" is Debra Tudor, the first female mechanic at Vespa (she is included in their archives in Italy) and today the Principal Safety Engineer (Elevators) of the state of California. This means that she monitors the safety of the many public transport travelers as well as those who work on these modern machines that offer mobility to the disabled, tired, and elderly. Tudor was a colleague of my father and his brothers in the elevator and escalator industry.
My father, Jose, is an immigrant from Shanghai of Chinese, Portuguese, and Dutch descent (for trade and religion reasons; the family has documents dating back to the 1550s). Just like his two brothers, he is a elevator and escalator mechanic. All three of them build and repair these modern, oiled, moving, sharp machines in the San Francisco Bay Area, without ever being cut or crushed, or facing their death. These are not exceptional accidents. The brothers and Debra are card-carrying mechanics, meaning, they are competent and have obtained the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree. Together with their black, white, red, and yellow brothers and sisters, they have been clothed in industrial chemicals and human filth (BART “gravy”), surviving flesh-eating bacteria, while building, maintaining, and troubleshooting these invisible infrastructures of modernity.