In the summer of 2021, after waiting a lifetime (seventeen years), Abby legally crossed the U.S./Mexico border to be reunited at last with her mother in Phoenix. Now in her twenties and a mother of her own, she is ready to share her story. Abby is gracious and soft-spoken but not afraid to tell the truth. Like John Keats’ “Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, Abby’s beautifully embroidered “Sueño Americano” speaks to the reality of many who’ve traveled through hell and back again to make it across the border to the U.S., only to find food, rent, and the most basic services, frighteningly out of reach.
On this Good Friday 2023, the opening night of the group exhibition “Bordando Esperanza” at Phoenix’s Olney Gallery, Abby’s paisano-countryman hangs on a crucifix in the center of Sueño Americano. On one side of the cloth, we see the wide open green of mountains, cheerful houses, and flowers, and on the other side, an imposing blood-red border wall with crosses that dot the foreground and mark the dead. In contrast to the embroidered prayers and memories in the exhibition, Sueño Americano is the other side of the coin.
The priority of the traveling exhibition is that it be shown first in the U.S. communities that the participating artisans are now in so that they can represent their own work and share their story in their own voice if they choose. In Phoenix, Abby represents the exhibition and offers for a donation, original mantas that she’s currently embroidering.
One of the most popular pieces on display in the exhibition is Abby’s “Sé Fuerte,” completed during the year+ that she and her children waited at the shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico for the legal opportunity to cross and petition for asylum. Two of Abby’s other pieces in the exhibition have her signature Xray transparency: an eagle with outstretched wings titled “Volemos Alto”- We Fly High and a howling coyote titled “Loyal and Lonely,” both with an entire desert ecosystem embroidered inside their bold outlines.
Abby accepts embroidery commissions now and is happy to work from drawings or photographs that folks provide. Originals in the exhibition are not available but limited cards and posters of Sé Fuerte and Abby’s other designs may be available going forward with donations to Abby’s small Artisans Beyond Borders start-up grant.
To support Embroidering Hope’s artisan start-ups across the U.S., donate directly to www.ArtisansBeyondBorders.org. By helping these artisans gain a foothold, we support healthy families and resilent community, peace, and beauty.
To support the Migrant shelter La Casa de Misericordia y Todas Naciones in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, donate to Cruzando Fronteras.
Valarie James, friend of Artisans Beyond Borders, 2023