By Suzanne Volmer
On Memorial Day Weekend, audiences at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will have the opportunity to encounter “Immigration Nation” by artist Nora Valdez. This Intervention style artwork is planned as a happening in three locations inside the MFA: the Shapiro Family Courtyard, Gallery 168 and Druker Family Pavilion. The artist will install on Friday and then remove “Immigration Nation” on Tuesday.
As a framework of thought, the project will have three zones of presentation described by the museum as “bringing together more than 100 sculptures made by members of the Boston community with Valdez’s direction.” The artist will speak about the development of “Immigration Nation” in two artist talks scheduled for Monday May 28 at 11:30 am and 2 p.m. These artist dialogues in the museum’s Riley Seminar Room will last about 30 minutes. During these talks, Valdez will share personal experiences and stories related to the project. The 2 p.m. discussion will be ASL interpreted.
Argentine-born Valdez is a United States citizen and Boston-based artist affiliated with Boston Sculptors Gallery. She created “Immigration Nation” in 2017 and received funding for the project from New England Foundation for the Arts. Urbano Project was the fiscal sponsor.
The MFA’s iteration of “Immigration Nation” can best be described as Interventionist Art because it enters the MFA through community engagement rather than traditional curatorial channels. Linda Apple, director of volunteer and community programming, welcomes “Nora Valdez as she presents Immigration Nation at this year’s Memorial Day Open House. [Nora’s] themes of immigrants’ struggles, American identity and community — [address] issues that are prevalent today and are explored in [the] current exhibition, “Candice Breitz: Love Story,” which [also] draws attention to the worldwide refugee crisis.”
Director Matthew Teitelbaum has encouraged various types of paradigm shifting in art presentation at the MFA and “Immigration Nation” is somewhat an example of this trend. According to apple, he MFA’s 2020 strategic plan, “invites new and diverse perspectives into the museum — including those of local artists.”
“Immigration Nation” will be hosted by the museum only through Monday so the opportunity to see the work is limited. It is a happening for the long weekend. As an added bonus, Monday will be an Open House Day, meaning no fee will be charged for entry.
The narrative impact of “Immigration Nation” is emotive and poetic. Valdez’s approach to storytelling is imbued with personal connection that communicates the struggle of displacement combined with the need to find home. Nomadic journey is projected through a sensibility of hopeful desire expressing potential and predicament that émigrés face while transiting from the familiar to the unknown.
Audiences will see a number of suitcases; many have been collaged with information, others hand carved in stone by the artist. Conceptually, the idea of suitcases functions emblematically for Valdez to communicate a constellation of stories, each with an individual set of associations and feelings.
Valdez has chosen to situate a wood carved work that leans against a wall in the Shapiro Family Courtyard. Surface treatment in this instance accentuates expressions of bittersweet longing and hope, which are attributes of this artist’s sensibility of figurative countenance.
Valdez developed her skill as a stone carver in Europe before coming to live and work in the United States. Carving in any material is physically charged, adds weight and substance to a concept, and delivers a sense of artifact. Considered as a whole, “Immigration Nation” pivots on the idea of the enormity of a swell of immigrants and suggests both a relationship to Ben Shahn’s sensibility as well as connecting with the dreamy reverie associated with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
Similarly, “Immigration Nation” is a conversation that relates a sense of unfolding present.
(“Nora Valdez: Immigration Nation” was on display from May 25 through 28 at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass. For more information, call (617) 267-9300.)