This art piece titled “Unholy Escort” is a sand painting created by Katie Jo Subaddy. The artist’s use of color and contrast to place emphasis on the central figure in comparison to the other two figures suggests that the woman is of high importance, perhaps even associated with religious value. After researching, I discovered that the woman in the painting is the Virgin of Guadalupe, an important saint in the Roman Catholic religion and the mother of Jesus. She is tied up at the hands and being forcibly taken into custody by the police, more specifically the ICE. What is compelling about this painting is the use of the Virgin as a woman subject to oppression and abuse by the immigrant system that supposedly claims to exist to protect people. A religious figure is utilized to elucidate a parallel between the journey of asylum seekers and Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. The latter three had to flee Egypt to escape persecution, just like contemporary asylum seekers. It invokes feelings of shock, anger, and sadness. It possibly conveys how if an invincible and celestial body can’t escape the inhumane nature of the American government, what chance do the regular people have? Subaddy painted this image after Trump required ICE agents to target migrants who were seeking asylum in the US after fleeing from violence in México and South America. The immigrants’ lives were disregarded, as this attack exacerbated the turmoil faced at the borders, such as deportation and abandonment of families. The use of sand as paint depicts how expendable immigrants’ lives were.
Subaddy’s parents are immigrants from Ireland who were forced to flee due to a famine. She traveled to Nepal to learn from monks at a mountain monastery. Her experiences with her parents being immigrants allows her to connect her roots to the injustice that many immigrants are facing today.