Anti-Immigration Councilor Creates Californian Art Controversy

0 Posted by - March 28, 2007 - Blog

Is it propaganda or is it art? An exhibit addressing issues faced by non-status immigrants in California is taking heat from a local city councillor, who condemns the art as “political propaganda”. Entitled “Mi Corazon Escondido” (My Hidden Heart), the exhibit is meant to reflect life in Escondido as lived by people of Mexican heritage.

City councillor Sam Abed has attacked the exhibit as too “political” and “divisive”. Abed clearly likes to keep his art and politics well separated: “It's a pro-illegal political propaganda that promotes violence and divisiveness at a cultural facility that is supposed to embrace art, culture and diversity.”

Abed should know about divisiveness. Along with a couple like minded councillors, he led the city in a battle to keep non-status immigrants out of town. There's nothing like separating families to get a community all uppity. Immigrants and immigrant rights activists took to city hall for several demonstrations, with anti-immigrant groups responding in kind.

It is perhaps unsurprising then that one exhibit attacks Abed directly. California State professor David Avalos, who organized the exhibition at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, presents a photo essay entitled “Abed Abed Dreaming”. Created with one of his students, Marco Garcia, the images offer a critical look at the city's decision to ticket cars parked on lawns, a problem that Abed blames on overpopulation associated with illegal immigration. One piece depicting a home with a transparent car in the yard is based upon one resident's claim that he was ticketed for the grassy offense while his car was actually sitting in a mechanics shop. “Abed adreamin',” the photo reads, “seeing things that are not there”.

A true sport in the face of folly, Avaols embraces the councilor's critique, arguing that Abed has helped evoke an emotional response to the work, completing the artistic process. Now if only art could evoke Abed's resignation, we'd really be getting somewhere.

Contact Sam Abed at sabed@escondido.org or 760.839.4638.

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