I explore racism in the United States through the discourse of yellow, government issued signage found along Highway 5 near the Mexican border. These silhouette-laden signs tend to equate humans with animals and dangerous objects. Some caution signs warn drivers about potential animal crossings, including deer and kangaroo, while others alert commuters about the presence of hazardous materials and construction equipment. The sign seen near the Mexican border reads, “Caution” and bears the silhouette of a nuclear family running with urgency. This essentialist portrayal signifies an insidious racial profiling, the people portrayed having distinct features of Latino culture, including girls with braided hair and women wearing long skirts.
The series Crossing exploits the silhouetted features of these signs to restore a specific and more dignified humanity to the individuals. The color photographs portray suburban, heterosexual couples wearing contemporary clothing; they wade in a river that runs freely and has no boundaries. However a spider web in the foreground precludes sharp focus on the couple. Another photograph also uses shallow depth of field to portray the same couple running in the background of desert landscape.
Shallow depth of field, or optical blur, allows me to comment on mass media’s treatment of the current and restrictive immigration situation. This topic is often mentioned, but most discussions remain superficial and “out-of-focus.” This satirical approach to the signage questions seemingly subtle representations of racism and the dearth of self-criticism within a contemporary consumerist society.