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A New Exhibition Showcases Treasured Objects That Hold the Stories of Migration

Photo by Maya Trabulsi

Above: "[A] Portrait of People in Motion" exhibition at the New Americans Museum in Liberty Station, Nov. 6, 2019.

When you walk into the New Americans Museum at Liberty Station, you may wonder where the art exhibition is. But if you look closer, you will see a penknife, a bell, a figurine. And if you look even closer, you will learn about the stories embedded in these objects.

“Each one of these individual stories come together as a chorus in my view,” said Kerianne Quick, the artist-in-residence at the museum. “When you start with something specific, something completely surprising can unfold. Something you never would have access to otherwise.”

Video by Roland Lizarondo

For her installation, “[A] Portrait of People in Motion,” Quick spent over a year gathering treasured objects from San Diego residents. But more importantly, she gathered the stories of migration that accompany them.

Photo by Maya Trabulsi

Kerianne Quick, the artist-in-residence at the New Americans Museum, Oct. 29, 2019.

“If we can feel some of that emotion about what it’s like to try to figure out how to live in a new place, then maybe we can empathize with those who are experiencing the most extreme version of that discomfort,” she said.

To create the art, an item is digitally scanned and then 3-D printed or laser engraved to leave behind what Quick calls a ghost, transparent with faint detail — yet still teeming with the story of how it came to San Diego.

“The story is the art piece," she said. "The objects that are represented here, they’re just a way into those stories. And, yes, the objects are transparent and that's on purpose.”

Some objects are recreated into clear resin replicas, others are acrylic. At first glance, they are hard to see against the stark white wooden furniture, designed to look like a home. But looking closer is exactly what Quick wants you to do.

“When they look closer and they wonder what that thing is that they're looking at. They are given access to the story that is behind it,” she said.

Quick also recorded the oral histories of each piece. The recordings can be played by dialing (619) 483-3758 on your phone and then the corresponding number of the item, such as No. 122.

Photo by Maya Trabulsi

A translucent copy of Dudley Hartung's Korean War jacket hangs on a clothing rail in the “[A] Portrait of People in Motion” exhibition, Oct. 29, 2019.

It’s a jacket San Diego resident, Dudley Hartung, contributed to the exhibition. A translucent copy of his jacket hangs on a clothing rail in the gallery’s “bedroom.” A picture of a military tank and the words “106th Tanker” can be faintly read on the laser-engraved replica.

“My object is a jacket. When I was in Korea during the Korean war, this was a jacket that I, in effect, stole from the army,” says Hartung in the voice recording. “I, along with a certain number of other veterans, are very much against war.”

Quick says this installation is a platform to help better empathize with those who have migrated.

“The crux of what I'm trying to do here is to help people, in general, feel something that might make them treat their neighbor a little bit better.”

[A] Portrait of People in Motion, is on display at the New Americans Museum, 2825 Dewey Road, Ste. 102 in Liberty Station until Dec. 15. Admission is free.

Listen to this story by Maya Trabulsi.

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