With its cheerful red and silver furniture and classic Coca Cola logos, the 1950s diner is an American icon. The bright décor symbolizes the image of America as beacon of hope and a place of refuge. To highlight the vibrant and cheerful furniture, I chose platinum rather than silver for the walls. To help emulate the brightness of retro diners, I placed mirrors behind a strand of citrine (a semiprecious stone), pearls and Murano glass.
I wanted to contrast this cheery atmosphere with the chilling reality that prompts someone to seek refuge in another country, possibly at a moment’s notice. The phone left off the hook represents the need to drop everything when fleeing. The delicate piece of lingerie represents the need to leave virtually everything behind, to bring along only the most precious, portable possessions.
Even the framed document — designed to look like a business license — has a story to tell. My father came to the United States as a refugee from Europe during World War II. To receive his US visa, he had to provide verification of his work history. The black frame contains a portion of that work history, specifically verification by the Banca Commerciale d’Italia that my father “left” the Bank in February 1939 in accordance with articles 20 and 21 of RDL 17 November 1938, VII, no. 1728. A clinical way of stating that the Bank fired my father because he was Jewish (the cited articles being the Italian Racial Laws which, among other things, made it illegal for Jews to work in any profession).
Additional materials include mirrors, metal, wood, paper, wire, and fabric.
Custom framed with museum glass in a sophisticated deep wooden frame in collaboration with Chevy Chase Art Gallery, Washington, DC.
Frame color: Black
Size (in inches): 12.5 x 18.75 x 4
The Diner (Coming to America)
- The overall theme of the assemblage is immigration, but as I worked on it, the focus narrowed to coming to the United States as a refugee.