In the early 1500s, Spanish and Portuguese monarchs sponsored expeditions to the Americas in search of new territories, gold, and silver. Around the same time, Portugal extended its empire east into China, establishing porcelain trade routes by sea. The fine Ming dynasty ware that was imported for European courts was prized for its rarity, strength, and translucence, and even referred to as “white gold” because of its value.
Fast forward 500 years to artist Daisy Quezada, whose porcelain sculptures in her installations critique social and legal issues related to immigration from Mexico, once a colonial territory of Spain. In her installation for Denver, paper-thin layers of porcelain in the form of clothing, slip-cast from actual garments worn by immigrants, partially fill a large cardboard bin fastened to a packing pallet with straps covered with silver leaf (a reference to silver as a New World resource). Concrete surrounds the box of clothes, and a tall fence partially closes a small space at the back of the installation. The scope of its symbolism ranges from border fence to detainment camps, and even the unseen barriers that we use to create divisions. Voices fill the gallery; they belong to dozens of youth that Quezada interviewed about their experiences as immigrants or children of immigrants.