Acrylic painting, Laura Stokes, 2017

“We Are Not the Last” opens July 11

Installation by artists Laura Stokes, Jim Abuan, and Juan Rodriguez
Artist Reception Thursday, July 20, 2017, 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM during 3rd Thursday Art Walk.

The title of this installation, “We Are Not the Last,” is taken from a series of paintings by Holocaust survivor, Zoran Music,  pointing to the movement of peoples that will continue for the foreseeable future. Immigration is based on peoples’ overwhelming need to improve or save their lives.  Immigrant groups, once established and accepted, have thrived and made the United States a very diverse, prosperous, and pleasant place to live.

Acrylic painting on paper, Jim Abuan, 2017

Stokes, Abuan and Rodriguez are three artists that  normally paint and/or draw, but are using installation as a contemporary form of expression to respond to this controversial issue.  Immigration is a concept that cannot be easily illustrated.  However, along with paintings, drawings, and collages, the artists are using plaster of paris, banners, various media, packages,  invented and copies of actual road signs, clothing, furniture, and other everyday objects  as artistic  metaphors regarding this on-going issue.

How the installation “We Are Not the Last” came to be

by Laura Stokes

For the last eighteen months, I have planned to rent Gallery A of the Mistlin to show paintings in July 2017.  I selected very talented artists, Juan Rodriguez, whom I have known for several years, and, more recently, Jim Abuan to be in this show with me. With differing styles, I envisioned an exciting exhibit.

Last October, 2016, Jim and I were discussing the art business in general, and Jim brought up the use of installation as another means to address complex subject matter, which we then immediately considered for the July 2017 show.

Jim referenced Ai Wei Wei of China, who has shown an installation, in New York City, on Syrian refugees and their plight.  Anyone with access to the news media has been made aware of Syrian refugees.  I became attached to the idea of “art installation” as a means of responding to the issue of immigration – I am emotionally moved by the subject.

Both of the other artists are a product of immigration, and I think lend their credibility to the nature of this installation.  Juan has drawn imagery over the years of migrants crossing the desert.  Jim’s life story of immigrating here as a child and growing up to obtain an advanced education in a field of his passion is a classic American theme.

Friends, relatives and helpful strangers involved in the field of human rights activism have enabled me to complete my portion of the installation.  Juan Rodriguez will travel a long distance with his family to participate in this installation as an experienced artist. Jim Abuan has been invaluable to me with his knowledge of art and art materials, in his helpful criticism of my work.  The 12 foot banner “Syria” would not exist in its raw, explosive form without Jim commenting that it was becoming artistic.  It would have lost its disturbing punch.  For all their help, I am very grateful.

We appreciate and thank the CCAA Board and Exhibition Committee at the Mistlin Gallery for their permission and support to exhibit this art installation.

Artist’s Statement from Jim Abuan

My family immigrated to the U.S., in 1955, when I was 8 years old. We settled in Delhi, California because my dad’s relative lived there with his family – his wife an American. As much as I can remember, assimilation for us was uneventful, pleasant and positive, even with financial struggle.

In the Philippines, I remember doing a lot of drawings and impressed my classmates in the great central valley of California, when I made drawings at school. I later met my uncle who commented I could go work for Disney studios but in my mind I knew I would rather be an artist.

With this art installation show titled “We Are Not the Last,” it’s an opportunity for me to respond to the issue of immigration by touching upon the anti-miscegenation laws that once existed and specific to Filipinos who came to America.

As defined online, an art installation means taking a large interior and loading it with disparate items that evoke complex and multiple associations and thoughts, longings, and moods. Normally, as an artist I choose to paint with acrylic to participate primarily in art’s visual conversation. I’ve carried the practice of painting over to create some of the items in my piece in addition to using common everyday objects as possible metaphors regarding the subject.