“Echoes of Passion and Pain” was the theme for the 2018 Texas Body Paint Competition, hosted by Beyond The Canvas. On November 10, 2018, U.S. and international body painters gathered in San Antonio, Texas to present our interpretations of the theme. Once again I was assisted by my wonderful friend and body painting colleague, Anja Yamaji. We had 6.5 hours to paint our model (and vocalist!), Angela Reign. We are so thrilled that our team placed 1st!
As with some of my past competition body paint pieces, my design features a personal story. The theme of “Echoes of Passion and Pain” focused on how the experiences of our past influence who we are today. The day I received the event theme, I was listening to a story about immigrants who were losing their Temporary Protected Status and would be sent back to their country of origin. Some had been in the US for 20 years because their home countries had continued to be unsafe for return. In that moment, I realized I had been in the US for 20 years, albeit under very different circumstances, and the memories of my immigration experience came flooding back.
My design is about my journey to U.S. citizenship. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and like the Monarch butterfly migration, my family immigrated from Canada to the US. It takes lots of paperwork to become a permanent resident (and later a citizen). The layers of papers and checkboxes start on her right leg (with a suspicious eye peeking through), then wrap up onto her back and move up into the headpiece. You get fingerprinted and have a physical exam. The blood vials on her leg represent the blood tests to check for tuberculosis and other diseases. When you receive your “green card,” which includes your fingerprint, your status is “legal or resident alien”. The US customs agent on the back is a reminder of the scrutiny I felt at every border crossing, despite being so well-documented.
As the piece comes around to the front, the documents on the back blend into the labyrinth on her stomach, which represents my memories of the interview process feeling like a maze of waiting rooms and long lines. The flowing, green fabric on the front takes inspiration from Lady Liberty’s draping fabric and includes elements of the seal, color, and lettering from my naturalization certificate. The process culminates with taking the Oath of Citizenship, seen in my portrait on the front. When I became a citizen in 2010, I was finally eligible to vote. The voting stickers on the front are drawn from my actual voting stickers, which I save after each election.
The whole process of immigration is long, expensive, and draining. Most natural-born citizens are not aware of what it entails. But with more understanding, we can get to a point of more empathy with each other.
Thank you to Tomas Vasquez and Beyond The Canvas for hosting a wonderful celebration of art and humanity.