Elizabeth Jimenez Montelongo
Liberty and Justice for ALL, 2011, mixed media on mirror: sea shells, colored sand, acrylic, wire, string, permanent marker, 8x8" (Collection of the artist.)
In her mixed media piece Liberty and Justice for All, Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo recognizes undocumented immigrants as an important part of American society and calls for political change that will give them justice.
Elizabeth was born in California because her parents emigrated from Mexico to escape a life of poverty. She feels a strong connection with undocumented immigrants because many of her family members, friends, and acquaintances are, or were at some point, living undocumented in the United States. She witnessed their struggles knowing that she just happened to be fortunate enough to have escaped those experiences.
In Liberty and Justice for All, shells bearing initials represent undocumented immigrants and form the flag of the United States. The shells refer to the fact that undocumented immigrants are actually pushed out of their home environments due to social, political, and economic conditions. The shells are arranged like butterfly wings because undocumented immigrants continue to seek freedom from oppression and injustice.
Some shells carry indigenous or modern symbols. Phrases alluding to activism and revolution appear on and around the shells: "El Pueblo unido jamas sera vencido," " ...to live on your knees?," and "¡YA BASTA!" The broken and punctured shells in the blue square allude to the separated families of those who are deported and the deaths caused by immigration laws that make border crossings dangerous.
Above and below the flag, black bands symbolizing the darkness and uncertainty of undocumented life, are inscribed with the well-known words: "Todo Para Todos." On top, framed by the symbol of change and movement, ollin, and the eagle from the United Farm Workers flag, is the word "LIBERTY" and on the bottom: "AND JUSTICE FOR ALL." The letters are ragged and have a sense of urgency for the United States to keep the promise it made with these words.
Liberty and Justice for All is wrapped in barbed wire and has empty areas that allow viewers to discover their own reflection on the mirror's surface. This reminds viewers that this unresolved issue and unjust situation affects even those who are not undocumented.
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