In the history of the immigrant rights movement, campaigners have periodically pressed people to imagine “a day without an immigrant”–just to picture what their lives would be like without the labor of immigrants who toil in some of the lowest paid and toughest jobs in the country. Now, in the quaint suburbs of California, an artist has turned the question on its head–asking people to peer into the interior lives of that anonymous migrant, whose presence is taken for granted or simply ignored. Los Angeles artist Ramiro Gomez was recently interviewed by Colorlines.com about his installations of immigrant worker cardboard cut-outs, delicately placed in and around the treelined streets of Southern California.
Playing with familiar images of suburban life, Gomez takes neatly manicured suburban landscapes and quiet, sterile interiors, and peoples them with workers. They’re sometimes blurry images, like a smudged fingerprint, but they add a layer of depth, even if they remain physically flattened and faceless.
Visitors to Happy Hills may find themselves disoriented when they see the workers who are supposed to be invisible now thrust into the foreground–mowing the lawn, polishing furniture, keeping the living room spotless, the sofa cushions comfortably fluffed.
Gomez names his characters: Sonia the Cleaning Lady, Alondra taking a break, Adolfo in the garden. All people who might spend more time at that house each day than the people who own it. They’re residents who come and go without a trace, the neighbors whom others try to render invisible, but who remain undeniably present in the background.
For more of Gomez’s work, visit Happy Hills.