From 2003 until 2014, Arizona photographer Tom Kiefer worked as an employee at the U.S. Customs and Border Control facility near Ajo. During his time there Kiefer witnessed items confiscated from men, women, and children illegally crossing the border—objects deemed as “non-essential” of both personal significance and generic value to families. Stored in garbage bags by law enforcement, these items began being photographed by Kiefer as a way to document the immigration crisis and to humanize the migrants attempting to enter the United States.
The result was El Sueño Americano – the American Dream, an exhibition that has been celebrated and featured in numerous institutions over the last several years. Fuller Craft Museum’s presentation of El Sueño Americano features over 100 of Kiefer’s photographs, along with found bordados (embroideries). A compelling exhibition bringing together craft, photography, and powerful subject matter for 2019, these photographs force viewers to ask difficult questions about the identity of objects. That is, what are these items? Who are the owners of these objects, and how do they value them? Why does of possession of objects create meaning? What does it mean for the owners when they are forced to give them up?
Born in Wichita, Kansas, and raised in the Seattle area, Tom Kiefer spent 20 years in Los Angeles working in the graphic design, advertising, and antique trades. In 2001, he sold his business and relocated to Arizona to re-focus on his art and creative process. Kiefer was invited in 2003 by the Sonoran Institute to tour the ecologically-troubled region of the lower Colorado River Delta, resulting in a 2006 photographic essay, and the subsequent 2007 project “Journey West Exhibit,” which chronicled Arizona structures, landscapes, and cultural markers bringing together Phoenix, Tucson and Ajo.
Tom Kiefer has received enormous recognition for his work, including the 2015 Emerging Talent Award from LensCulture. He has been included in the Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50, spotlighted in the “Photo Booth” of the The New Yorker, and featured in the July 2018 article “The Things They Carried: Items Confiscated From Migrants in the Last Decade” in The New York Times. El Sueño Americano was previously awarded an Artist Seed Grant by ArtPrize, and featured as an official ArtPrize entry in 2017. This exhibition will be coming to Fuller Craft Museum from The Saugatuck Center for the Arts in Saugatuck, Michigan.
Schedule: January 26 – July 28, 2019
Winter Exhibitions Reception: Sunday, February 3, 2:00 – 5:00 pm