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Truth Farm art installation sparking conversation about immigration

Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 11:47 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - From a bird’s eye view over a private farm near Trump Winery, you can see a word: Truth.

A large table, spelling out the five letter word, is part of an art installation there called the Truth Farm.

Ana Teresa Fernandez, the artist behind the work and self-proclaimed “Truth Farmer,” said she hopes the table plants a metaphorical seed, a conversation surrounding immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border.

“How can we instigate a conversation about what it means to be a good neighbor?” Fernandez asked. “For me that was creating this immense table that spells out the word ‘truth’ that spans over 120 feet long and is 30 feet tall where we would invite people to come here and tell us their stories and their truth and their journey.”

Her table, its message, even the material it’s made out of, is doing just that.

“For me the emblem of families being separated at the border, I am trying to give it a new life and a new context by upholstering these tables with these space blankets to create a new form, a new purpose for them to bring families together, to bring people together,” Fernandez said. “When people come together to eat, that’s when they feel most comfortable, when they bring their intimacy, their stories, their wanting to share about each other.”

The table isn’t just for sharing a meal. It’s also a place for Truth Farmers like Arleene Correa Valencia to share the stories behind their art.

“I came to the U.S. when I was three years old and I’m a recipient of DACA, so I have this like, very specific social-political experience in this country where I can speak about being undocumented and I can speak about all of these ideas that are implemented on me and my body by politicians and by these laws,” Valencia said. “I have a very visceral and real experience of what it means to be the person that is invisible.”

The installation includes several of Valencia’s large hand-made tapestries, made out of her family’s clothing, that change with light.

“When we’re looking at these pieces in the daylight, we see the idea of a child with these abstracted figures of parents, and when we remove light, all that we see are just babies floating in space,” Valencia said. “There’s a real conversation that begins to happen about family separation and children existing without their parents.”

In the darkness, the image on the tapestries transforms.

“If we hold our phones up to the work and we take a picture with flash, the parents absorb all the light through reflective material and then the babies disappear, and that is, to me, a translation of the way our parents sacrificed everything to bring us to this country and take on the consequences of being labeled as human smugglers only to protect us.”

John Kluge Jr., who helped organize the Truth Farm, said its original location near Trump Winery is no coincidence.

“The wine industry itself is one that only exists because of the interconnectedness of our two countries and the labor that really allows that business to function,” Kluge explained. “This is really about providing some visibility to these families and people that are the creative force behind it. Without them, there wouldn’t be an industry. We wouldn’t have the wine industry here in Virginia. They’re not given a platform enough, and I think this is what really affords us to do so.”

Soon, the table and other pieces of the installation will move to Champion Brewing and Ix Art Park for more people to see. Champion Brewing will soon release a new beer covered in art work from Truth Farm artists. Proceeds of the beer will go to support the U.S.-Mexico Foundation and Cresciendo Juntos in Charlottesville.

Kluge said getting the artwork into the community is way to continue the conversation about immigration.

“The value in opening this up to the broader public is to encourage everybody to do something. To be curious about each other, to make inquiries, to understand more than what we’re reading in the headlines or hearing from talking heads on the evening news,” Kluge said. “We have to make an effort together to understand complex issues like migration and to really just see each other.”

Valencia and Fernandez agreed.

“It doesn’t require you to invest anything, it just takes two seconds to visually connect, and if it draws your attention, if it even sparks your curiosity, we’ve planted a seed,” Valencia said.

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