Michael L's Story

This work has special resonance for me as I am the son of a German immigrant who came to the US in 1955, 10 years after the end of WWII. My father, a physician and German soldier during the war, left his ruined country to come to the US largely on the advice of others, and because he was befriended by American soldiers in the POW camp at the end of the conflict. He also was accepted in a German-American exchange program run by the government to relocate professionals in the US in exchange for their service and help with citizenship. It seems nearly impossible to think that under our current administration that we would be helping former foreign hostiles resettle in the US.

Once in the US, he met my mother, an X-ray technician, at the Jersey City Hospital. My mother’s family are also descendants of Italian immigrants who came to New York a half century earlier. Perhaps my story is not that unique, but I do think my parent’s relative recent immigrant status has informed my own outlook on American society, its treatment of immigrants, and the way in which Americans typically construct their own identity and mythos.

As an artist in the US, I have done many projects examining the histories and development of what it means to be an American, and frankly much of the narrative is a dark one. I think as a country, we tend to think that the society operates without question, that we are somehow ordained to function as we do, however oppressive it might be for those on its margins. I try to live my own life differently, to welcome those who are new to our country and share what I can.