LAND ESCAPE, 2019
Edison Peñafiel’s work titled Land Escape was inspired by the artist’s personal experience as an immigrant to the United States. Born in Ecuador and having experienced immigration and the political and economic instability that often contribute to migration, Peñafiel felt it was his duty to explore his personal and collective experiences of displacement, which for millions of people around the world is also a daily reality. The installation in the Walgreens Windows – initially created during his time at an artist residency in Corsicana, Texas – is a site-specific extension of the original project. Now situated in Miami, the work has particular relevance to its residents, many of whom moved to the city from somewhere else.
Throughout history, humans have continually migrated between lands, territories and nations. Today, legal boundaries, cultural resistance and public dialogue around immigration unfold across the world, yet personal narratives and first-hand histories are not often shared. Land Escape makes that journey visible within the Walgreens Windows with hopes of sparking dialogue and discussion around viewers’ own migration stories. While the imagery and narratives evoked here may be shared amongst communities, they are also quintessentially part of the artist’s personal story. The artist states that, “Through my work, I open the dialogue on such issues by presenting different perspectives and aim to create empathy by denouncing injustice.”
Set against the Miami-inspired pastel backdrop and the surrounding urbanism, Land Escape depicts a caravan moving through an abstracted world created out of drawing, photography, and found objects. The scene bears witness to the act of humans walking, carrying, searching, and seeking. The rough, raw style of the figures is borrowed from early French cinema stark black and white contrast. These masked travelers – intentionally nonspecific – move through a space with no clear geography, set rules, or distinct path. Masks are used across cultures in similar ways: to provide disguise, entertainment or for religious practices. In Land Escape, these masks signify the anonymity of undocumented migrants, but also the struggle to adapt to a new culture. Land Escape’s tableau echoes the Parthenon frieze — a scene of travel from antiquity — showing another cycle of human movement. The format of a store window display brings the journey of immigration parallel to the sidewalk, allowing viewers to participate and walk alongside the scene, separated by glass and barbed wire. The wire refers not only to the physical barriers, but also legal and political barriers that demarcate national borders around us. Importantly, the retail format situates the immigrant’s story where viewers would typically see new, desirable merchandise on display, highlighting the immigrant experience as the aspiration of some, but the lived experience of others.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Edison Peñafiel is a visual artist working in many forms. Born in Ecuador and later relocating to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his work seeks to create empathy by highlighting narratives of the oppressed – narratives that question the assumptions of our society. He earned a BFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from the Florida International University. His solo projects have appeared at 100 W Corsicana, Elsewhere Museum, and Centre Gallery among many others. Selected group exhibitions include the South Florida Cultural Consortium at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami the Florida Prize in Contemporary Art at the Orlando Museum of Art, and the Florida Biennial at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. He’s been the recipient of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship 2019, the Florida Prize in Contemporary Art 2019, and the Florida Biennial Juror’s pick award. His latest residencies include 100 W Corsicana, Elsewhere Museum, and Fågelbo.