America the Beautiful
I am a person of color. An immigrant. At a time when the notion of immigrants and migrancy is being villainized globally and in the United States, I feel it is important for me to announce publicly that I too am an immigrant. How this country thinks about immigrants is how you should think about me. How this country treats immigrants is how you should treat me.
My experiences in different cultures and a nomadic childhood shape and define the person that I am and my organic views on culture. It allows me a unique vantage point on society as both an insider and outsider. This view mediates through all my artwork whether it be subtly or overtly and the topics I choose to investigate through my various bodies of work which are a direct result of my unique position within culture.
Historical issues of race and privilege notwithstanding, for many immigrants the United States held a promise of opportunity and hope for a better life. What happens when a country rejects its own strengths? What happens when its leaders attempt to discredit its own institutions? What happens to us as a people, a society?
I choose to investigate these issues through an interdisciplinary approach influenced by the intersection of Social Media, Art, & Politics to speak about our collective narcissism. The promise of social media was to create a more connected world where one has "friends" who can engage immediately and directly with each other in a quick and efficient manner.
What we could not predict was the weaponization of social media by individuals and governments to pursue shameless self-promotion, cultural manipulation, and the dissemination of misinformation. My artworks attempt to question the various uses of social media within culture while acknowledging its positive and negative attributes. It is our need to connect with others that draws us into the social media sphere while our fear of that connection keeps us in that safe virtual space.
What does our online engagement say about ourselves as a society? In this virtual world, is the individual reduced to a product and how they present themselves online their brand? My work acts as a cultural mirror.
Link to America the Beautiful (wear headphones):
Prince Varughese Thomas lives in Houston and is a Professor at Lamar University.