‘All of These Woman Hide in Some Way’: Painter Aliza Nisenbaum on Tutoring Migrants to Express Themselves Through Art

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Tania Bruguera: 'Immigrant Movement International.'" © Art21, Inc. 2015.

For Cuban-born artist Tania Bruguera, there is no distinction between art and activism: her work, which is grounded in civic engagement and furthers the idea of art útil (using art as a utility or tool) is manifestly political.

In an exclusive interview with Art21 filmed in 2015, the artist discussed her project Immigrant Movement International, formed to help immigrants empower themselves and their communities through art.

By using art, the members “grow and understand how to work from their fear—with the limitations they have put on themselves once they enter this country,” she explains in the video, which aired as part of Art21’s Extended Play series.

The video includes testimony from another contemporary artist, Aliza Nisenbaum, who has earned acclaim for her intimate portraits, many created through Immigration Movement International. She also helped tutor members of the community.

Nisenbaum, who was born in Mexico City and now lives in Brooklyn, is inspired by the mural painting projects that defined a generation of artists in her native country.

“A lot of these women… hide in some way… because they are undocumented,” Nisenbaum tells Art21. I was trying to give a sense of agency to the women… in terms of finding their voice, in terms of art and basic English skills.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, below.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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