Exhibit on farmworkers ‘needs to be seen’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 July 2017 at 10:20 am

ALBION – This photo shows workers at a dairy farm in northern New York. It’s part of a photo exhibit by Lisa Catalfamo-Fiores from Kingsbury, near Glens Falls. She took a series of photos over two years that show farmworkers. She also travelled to Mexico to show the photographs to the workers’ families.

“DREAM of America: Separation & Sacrifice in the Lives of North Country Latino Immigrants” is on display at The Salih Gallery in Albion until Aug. 19. The gallery at 24 East Bank St. is open Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“It needs to be seen, especially in Orleans County because we have a significant population of migrant workers,” Idris Salih, gallery owner, said during an opening reception. “It’s a compelling exhibit. It has an emotional pull to it. It is intimate.”

Photo by Tom Rivers: Maria Gomes Neilans is shown with some of the pottery she created through the “Voices from the Earth” program, which will be displayed in a gallery in Albion through Aug. 19. She is shown with Deborah Wilson, who leads a pottery at the World Life Institute in Waterport. Farmworkers make the pottery, which is entirely handmade from earthenware clay. Most are glazed in an array of lively colors. They range from baking dishes and platters to fanciful garden fountains and jars with tropical vines and lizards.

Catalfamo-Fiores lives on a small farm in Kingsbury with her husband Omar, 20 milking goats, 250 chickens, and 4 dogs. A school social worker for the past 18 years, she is also an advocate and volunteer with her local Hispanic community.

Her photos represent separated family members of Latino workers in the North Country.

“Consistently, the message conveyed while visiting families was one of sadness and frustration,” Catalfamo-Fiores writes in a message as part of the exhibit. “However, in each home visited I was welcomed warmly and shown gracious hospitality. Parents spoke of longing to physically embrace children and in some cases, grandchildren they have never met. Children of workers eagerly listened for any details of their parents’ lives here in New York. Wives spoke of the challenges of raising children alone and the struggle of daily life so far from their spouses. Most poignant, I arrived as a stranger and after these emotional visits, left with a feeling of authentic connection and appreciation.”

A worker named Chuy is an assistant herdsman at a dairy farm in northern New York.

Chuy started working at a dairy farm in Northern NY in 2004 when he was 17. He is now the assistant herdsman at dairy farm. He financially supports his wife and daughter locally, and his parents and younger brothers in Mexico.

“I miss the hugs…” Chuy, with tears in his eyes, told the photographer.

Catalfamo-Fiores showed Chuy’s mother a picture of her son working at a dairy farm.

“This is the first picture I’ve seen of him in six years,” Chuy’s mother said. “His youngest brother was 1 year old when he left for the U.S. I’m longing to see and hug my son.”

The photo exhibit will be on the move, going on tour around the state. GO-Art! is the first arts council to display it after its debut last year in Glens Falls.

Gregory Hallock, GO-Art! executive director, pushed to have the exhibit displayed locally.

“There is so much negative press about immigration,” Hallock said. “This is a chance to see another side. I want people to have some empathy.”

This family in Mexico holds photos of loved ones that working at farms in northern NY.

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