September 3 – December 31 , 2021
Tom Kiefer’s exhibition El Sueño Americano /The American Dream is traveling to the Saint Louis University Museum of Art from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where it debuted on October 17, 2019.
Tom Kiefer worked part-time as a janitor at a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility near Ajo, Arizona, from 2003 to 2014. There he was struck by the personal items crucial for hygiene, protection, comfort and emotional strength which were confiscated and thrown away by border officials, who deemed them “potentially lethal” or “non-essential.”
Touched by the objects he salvaged and the stories they told, Kiefer set himself to record them through photographs that became a testament of dispossession and loss of humanity. The photographs depict wallets, letters, coins, cellphones, food, water bottles, medications, toothbrushes, soap, blankets, perfumes and toys.
The exhibition also includes recent video interviews with the artist, as well as with individuals who have crossed the southern border as migrants. A gallery guide outlines the history of US immigration policy and connects visitors to organizations that provide legal and humanitarian aid for migrants and advocate for a more humane policy at the border.