When I decided to work on the series of paintings I was a stranger, my purpose was not to retell a chronicle or event, past or present. Journalistic photography can do a better job documenting a migration of refugees. A portrait can certainly move you, but an abstract piece can evoke deeper, higher order thinking. My main idea is to express a human drama, individual and collective and perhaps help people gain more sensibility towards these brothers and sisters of our human race, making a call to be more empathic and understanding towards those less fortunate. Obviously, I named this series I was a stranger making reference on the words of the Savior cited in Matthew 25:35-40
35. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in…
40. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
To be able to convey some of the feelings a stranger might go through, I used geometric blocks, with a number of human shapes all boxed together. Some of those figures are more realistic and some are more abstract. The reality which we live can be so daunting at times that everything seems abstract, almost like living in a surrealistic dream. These paintings interpret uncertainty, no sky or heavens, no progress, no front, no back, no future, no past. These are the feelings of the strangers.
In the painting where people are seen more clearly, the human block appears to be suspended or surrounded by a one-color emptiness. Each of these human figures has different attitudes and priorities, which are typical of refugees, strangers, and immigrants. One of them looks back, to the past and all things left behind; another faces forward, another carries a burden, another takes care of a child, another bows in despair while others are elevated by the new horizon of hopeful opportunities. All these are part of “forced feelings” imposed on the temporal condition of being a stranger.
Another symbolism I used by boxing the strangers together is to demonstrate that people unite and form one compact, consolidated group when they share the same experiences, thus understanding one another in a better way. They react as one, with more empathy as they are affected by an extreme situation. The individual human shapes almost melt into a new, larger entity. The group is reduced to one small place. The rest of the space is great and abstract, not understood, not comprehended. It is a desert with no clear path or road. They are surrounded by no one and nothing, they only have each other. In some paintings I depicted several groups, which is the situation of our days, the problem multiplies when several groups for several reasons live the same scenario. Will we stay immobile or will we be moved to action? I close with this quote by Patrick Kearon “This moment does not define the refugees, but our response will help define us.”