The Library Gallery presents El Sueño Americano / The American Dream, an exhibition of works by Arizona-based artist Tom Kiefer featuring 59 photographs of everyday objects carried by migrants across the United States border with Mexico that were subsequently confiscated or forfeited at a Customs and Border Control facility in southern Arizona. Considered non-essential and thus discarded, these personal belongings — from gloves to rosaries and wallets to water bottles — were valued by their owners for their utilitarian, personal, or sentimental value. In Kiefer’s graphically striking photographs, these personal items serve as traces of individual human stories. “My intent,” says the artist, “is to explore the humanity of the migrants who risk their lives crossing through the desert and to create a personal connection for the viewer to a migrant and their hope for a better life.”
Born in Wichita, Kansas, fine art photographer Tom Kiefer was raised primarily in the Seattle area and worked in Los Angeles as a graphic designer. Kiefer moved to Ajo, Arizona in December 2001 to fully develop and concentrate his efforts in studying and photographing the urban and rural landscape and the cultural infrastructure. In 2015, Kiefer was included in LensCulture‘s top 50 emerging photographers and Photolucida‘s top 50 Critical Mass. His ongoing photographic series El Sueño Americano (The American Dream) has been featured in news publications nationally and internationally.
Also on view: Migration Stories: Selections from the UMBC Photography Collections
Drawn from UMBC’s collections, Migration Stories features twenty photographs that address human migration from a variety of perspectives. The installation explores the role of photography in shaping the public image of this issue and in conveying individual narratives of translocation and displacement.
The presentation of this exhibition is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.
Image: Tom Kiefer, Trail Markers. Archival inkjet print. ©Tom Kiefer. Used with permission of the artist.