MatthewKee, Staff Reporter
Frozen in the middle the main hallway, I am transfixed on the car hood that hangs next to the entrance to the library. It is one of many works by Maite Nazario (12) , one that tells the story of immigrants. At first glance, the piece merely appears to be a series of portrait paintings on wooden planks. However, the visuals only tell half of the story. Upon further inspection, QR codes are located on each of the subject’s clothing. It isn’t until you scan the code and listen to their interviews that you fully experience their stories. This level of intimacy that the audience is able to experience with the subject is an ingenious tactic that Maite employs to share their stories.
Maite is currently a senior at Chattahoochee High School who balances school, a new job at the High Museum and personal works. Given that, I was very lucky to be able to sit down and talk to her about her recent works.
Q: So first off, congratulations on your new art piece. What was the inspiration behind the whole thing?
A: Well, the thing is that I’m doing my concentration on immigration, and I wanted to focus on the immigrant’s perspective and why they immigrate instead of just the process of immigration. One of the main reasons why people immigrate is because of the lack of resources in their homeland. Something like education is taken for granted here but people strive for it back in their old homes. That’s what this piece was about, with the kids reaching for that education and that enlightenment. The holes in their shoes and their ripped shirts further illustrate the lack of resources. There’s not particular language on the book to really show how education is truly universal. There’s one symbol though that’s in Mayan. The symbol represents the sun which kind of symbolizes hope, enlightenment and wisdom.
Q: So apart from this piece, I know that a lot of your pieces revolve around the hardships of immigration. One piece that really stood out to me was your piece before the education one; the one with the planks and the audio. How did you come up with the ingenious idea of the audio recordings that allowed this intimate connection between the subjects and the audience?
A: Well, I was kind of just thinking about how we dehumanize immigrants. You see in the presidential debates or just talking about the subject in general how we objectify and dehumanize these people, and that’s the main issue I have with immigration because it’s not seen as people who need help but more of as, “Oh, we need to place this group of people somewhere.” In a way, I’m really just trying to give immigrants their humanity back. So, when I recorded them, I gave them the freedom to express themselves that wouldn’t be limited to a paragraph of writing.
Q: I understand that you’re an immigrant as well. Did you also draw from your personal experiences and emotions?
A: Actually yes, that’s how I started with my immigration series. As an immigrant, I started my freshman year here. I had to learn the language, comprehend the culture, even adapt to it. There’s a lot of things that I didn’t expect when I came here. I really wanted to show this feeling of entering a whole new world. (Points behind me) This painting behind you was actually one of my first pieces that was displayed, and it holds a lot of meaning to me. It’s my mom holding these plastic flowers that my grandfather gave to her before we left, and he died two years after we left. It’s kind of the only thing my mom has of him here. The white background represents her being frozen in time when she makes the decision to leave, since it’s such a monumental moment in her life that it takes your life out of time and space. You’re you but you’re not really you in the moment.
Q: One last question, what is the legacy you hope to leave?
A: (Laughs) Oh god. I hope to leave a legacy of passion and strength for others. My main focus right now is empathy. Honestly, my personal belief is that if people empathized with each other more, so many problems would be solved. When you’re able to step into their shoes, you can feel their pain and their struggles. Then, you understand what hurts them. With my legacy, maybe people will be able to love each other more.
There with those words, Maite concludes her thoughts and goals. In reality, these words are the messages she hopes to pass on to every person she touches with her art. Maite hopes to go to art school to pursue a degree in painting and sociology, so that she can become a social activist through her art.