West Bend’s Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) has brought in artists from diverse backgrounds and artistic influences to showcase “Artists without Borders,” an exhibit which investigates the complex relationships between identity, art and place.
The exhibit, open through July 3, features seven first-generation immigrants and two Midwest-born artists. Each work of art takes inspiration from the artist’s home country, in styles ranging from acrylic to watercolor to embroidery, but what they all have in common is the use of borders, both literally and metaphorically.
Tyler Friedman, MOWA director of collections, education and research says this motif allows for a discussion of the immigration debate in expected and unexpected ways.
“Borders are in between contentious places, like the border between the United States and Mexico,…North and South Korea,” Friedman says. “But borders are also spaces between the inside and outside of one’s home.”
Many of the displayed exhibits take advantage of this dual connotation of borders, Friedman says, such as Indian interdisciplinary artist Nirmal Raja, who submitted a piece called “Fault Lines.” This Indian door hanging follows a tradition of embroideries acting as literal borders between the inside and outside of homes in India, welcoming good spirits and guests inside. In contrast, drawn on the hangings are border lines separating the Gaza Strip, Syria and Turkey, the U.S. and Mexico, India and Pakistan, and North and South Korea.
“I hope that it’s an opportunity for conversation,” Friedman says. “Of course, these are contentious issues, and I think that’s one of the virtues of art is being able to present different issues that allow people to view them from a different light and discuss them.”