May 23, 2019
Roots and Wings: Immigration Stories Adorn MNHC Hallways
Stories are the foundation of all of us and often have a universality that unites us. That’s what artists Mara Lea Brown and her daughter, Emma Brown, realized when hearing the immigration stories of their friends and family.
At the age of 17, Mara immigrated back to the US from Spain and understood the challenges and adjustments an immigrant faces when moving to a new country. As the immigrant debate in our country came so boldly to the forefront in the past few years, Mara and Emma, born in the US, felt compelled to contribute to the conversation. Understanding that their story was just one of many, they set out to explore others’ stories in the community.
Mara, a portrait and representational artist and Emma, an abstract painter and textile artist, decided to use art as their communication medium to honor generations of immigrants and their relationship to the land they made their home.
The result is Roots and Wings, a traveling art installation that is a collection of individual stories that portray diversity, and migration. The artists’ understanding that our ancestors came from every corner of the earth inspired the name of the installation: They are our roots, our bones and our wings.”
Those first stories from family and friends were made into twenty-two batik scarves. Emma painted the quotes in wax on fabric and added a unique design creating scarves that hang lightly on chords weaving through the installation.
Mara uses the quotes collected for Roots and Wings as inspiration for her charcoal and resin portraits. The charcoal portraits reflect these personal and ancestral stories, creating a dream-like atmosphere.
Through a connection at Mission Neighborhood Health Center, nurse practitioner Bety Segarra, Mara and Emma brought their art to MNHC’s Shotwell clinic in September 2018. In addition to the installation that graced the hallways for several months, Mara and Emma conducted a free art workshop for MNHC patients to tell their stories.
Participants painted their stories on cloth and quotes from those stories were incorporated into an embroidered quilt. “Working together with patients to create the embroidered quilt was a special project we created for MNHC,” said Emma. “We were honored to work with MNHC to give voice to the many immigrants they serve.”
The artists were also invited to participate in MHC’s Children’s Christmas Party in December 2018 where they set up a table to share and collect stories from community members.
“We feel privileged to gather, share and honor the many stories that make up who we are,” said Mara. “Many of the stories we encounter as we travel with this exhibition have similarities. There is universality in immigration and we see that in how much there is in common no matter from where someone originated.”
As the Roots and Wings show travels, stories continue to be collected anonymously and archived on the web site https://rootsandwings.show
The exhibit will be on display at MNHC’s Excelsior this Spring.