Kathleen Herlihy-Paoli’s work explores environmental, social, and political concerns primarily through painted theatrical motif. This series of new paintings are a response to the global migrant crisis.
For this installation, Herlihy-Paoli creates an immersive environment that posits the viewer inside one of her theatrical paintings. From a distance, each painting appears to be a land or seascape, partly framed by a domestic curtain. Up close, the ill-defined, distressed migrant figures take form. The paintings, and the immersive setting, speak to New York City’s harbor, from the Lenape people who lived there, and believed that land was not a possession to be owned, to the immigrants that came through Ellis Island, where at the base of the Statue of Liberty sits a plaque with Emma Lazarus’s poem:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
—Emma Lazarus, November 2nd, 1883
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