El Sueño Americano

Opening Reception Oct 25, 6:30 – 8:00PM
Exhibit runs October 25 – December 22

El Sueño Americano: The American Dream

Works by Tom Kiefer
Opening Reception Oct 25 6:30 – 8:00PM

Opening October 25 through December 22.

The photographs and objects in El Sueño Americano first beg the questions: “Whose things are these? Why so many?  Who collected them and why?” Photographer Tom Kiefer also wants the viewer to ask, “What do I make of all this?”

El Sueño Americano features more than 100 photographs of items – some “everyday”, some deeply personal – along with actual items that were confiscated from women, men and children caught illegally crossing the Arizona border.

Kiefer, who worked as a janitor at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility in Arizona for 12 years, discovered the items in garbage bags. Taken from people and deemed “non-essential items” as part of the enforcement process, the items were bound for the dump. Kiefer was both intrigued and saddened by what he found in the garbage bags, and began making images of the items in an effort to answer his questions.

Exclusive Exhibition Catalog,
autographed by Tom Kiefer.
Softcover, 12″ x 12″, 32 pages.
Full color printed on 176 gsm super smooth uncoated paper.
Featuring all of the photographs from our exhibition.

El Sueño Americano Video Series

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Videos copyright Saugatuck Center for the Arts 2018

Featuring more than 100 images created and curated for the Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ show, the exhibition also includes never before seen physical items from Kiefer’s collection.  A smaller body of work from the El Sueño Americano series was seen in Art Prize 2017; this exhibition includes several iconic images from that showing alongside the new images.

El Sueño Americano leaves us with larger questions about how these confiscated objects act as living artifacts, offering clues about the human lives from which they were separated. And how might the act of collecting and archiving enable us to connect to often untold stories?

El Sueño Americano features images of soap, wallets, and canteens and also rosaries, Bibles, and family photos. Taken together the items weave tales of the mundane, of survival, and of the elusive American Dream (el sueno Americano).

Related Programing

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To learn more about Tom Kiefer & El Sueño Americano
visit www.tomkiefer.com

Recent press regarding Tom and his work can be found here:

New York Times:
The Things They Carried: Items Confiscated From Migrants in the Last Decade
We Were Taking Away Their Objects and Now We’re Taking Away Their Children

Huffington Post:
Kids Taken From Their Parents At The Border Get Their Toys Confiscated Too

Daily Mail:
Customs and Border Protection janitor who was tasked with disposing of immigrants’ confiscated possessions reveals the photos he’s taken of the personal items he kept.


Herman Miller Cares
Jill & Jon Winston
Penny & Jamie Ladd
Kathleen Markland
Douglas Congregational UCC
Allegan County Community Foundation
Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs

National Endowment for the Arts

Because of the high educational value, this exhibition is now included in the calendar programming for NEA Big Read Lakeshore.
More info on NEA Big Read Lakeshore can be found here: https://hope.edu/offices/big-read/