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Supporting the future(s) we want

Tanya Garcia and Juan Ortiz

Life in Shadows, Written in Light


Video, Audio

Runtime: 14:12

Tanya Garcia, Artist; Juan Ortiz, Producer

More on this artist

Artist Website


Light and darkness are intrinsic components of photography and the moving image. Its etymology is "phōtos" meaning "light" and "graphé" meaning "write" in Greek. As artist Lina Iris Viktor states: “Black and white are extremes (of the same spectrum). Black is the full absorption of light. And white is the full negation of light”. This physical principal gives meaning to the metaphor used to describe undocumented people “living in the shadows”. The same is said of people who have been disenfranchised by the criminal justice system.

When people directly affected by mass incarceration and immigration detention express themselves and write their life in light ... they reveal their life, they reveal their light and they enlighten shadows to reveal a deep sense of humanity.


Tanya Garcia is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based in Baltimore, MD. In 2014, Garcia received her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art and is the recipient of awards such as the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation’s Fellowship in collaboration with Creative Alliance, as well as the Intercultural Leadership Institute’s 2018-19 national fellowship cohort. She participated in residencies including ACRE and awarded TrueQué’s curated residency in Ecuador themed, Natural Hybrids: Frictions Between Art and Ecology. Garcia was also co-founder of an internationally recognized literary arts publication, HYRSTERIA.

Garcia is motivated by personal disconnect to homeland as a diasporan and second generation Puerto Rican, and is invested in the exploring the intersections between land, body, and memory as a process of redefining her relationship to place. With this framework, she engages with themes and theories of colonialism, diaspora, and forms of adaptation that exist not only within the body, but the geographical landscape. Garcia understands body as a multiplicity of forms not specific to humans and that bodies that have potential to affect and be affected. The purpose of her work is to complicate the geographical and socio-political narratives through time-based media such as photography, audio, video, and performance. In the past, her work referred to concepts of borders, immigration, and social difference in collaboration with communities local to Baltimore, Maryland.

Juan Ortiz is an artist, activist and community organizer who was most recently Creative Alliance’s Robert W. Deutsch Foundation Fellow for 2016 – 2017. Ortiz is a graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in the Community Arts Masters in Fine Arts program. He is presently a doctoral student and fellow in Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona. He also holds a Masters in Art and Public Policy from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary studies from the University of Texas, El Paso. For his work in the Southeast Baltimore Latinx community, Ortiz was selected as a Community Partner to the White House Action Summit in 2015. Ortiz's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and amongst his most recent honors has also been designated a Baltimore Social Innovation Fellow (2016) and is currently an Open Philanthropy Project Fellow and was recently a guest speaker at CityLab Baltimore hosted by the Atlantic magazine, the Aspen Institute and Bloomberg Philanthropy. Originally from El Paso, Ortiz has lived, worked and studied in East Baltimore for the past four years although he has participated on various nationwide and international social justice campaigns. Among them, the Force, Border Tour of the Monument Quilt and Cosecha national campaign for immigration reform.