Pam Cooper
handmade Abaca paper, thread, chain, nails, shipping labels and pencil, 46" x 50" x 4";  $6,000

Detail of Invisible
Exhibited at Village West in Slow Art Fall 2019

'Invisible' describes the experience of the unaccompanied minors arriving at the South Western border of the US. Children, all alone not chaperoned by any adults wanting to leave their respective countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala due to gang warfare, drugs and abuse. They have been arriving in the US in ever increasing numbers.

In 2014 the number had doubled from the previous year to 69,000 and these were the ones who had survived the perilous journey. The latest figures from homeland security in 2015 showed that the number was down to 40,000 but jumped again in 2016 to 60,000. The border control was ill equipped to deal with this huge influx of unaccompanied children. Mistakes were made.

Unfortunately since I finished this piece of work things have only gotten worse, increase in numbers crossing the border and not enough funding and facilities to process the children.

For this piece I made paper shoes and the text on the shipping labels was hand printed in pencil. The fragility conveys the tenuous hold on life these children had. Attached to chains as they had no say in what was happening to them.

I started this work in January 2015. The fabrication of the paper shoes and research on the subjects took me two years. Invisible was first exhibited January 2017 in Living in the Shadows: Underground Immigrant Communities, Rutgers Center for Women in the Arts.

I make my own paper to the shape and size I require for each piece of work. In this case it entailed pulling sheets of Abaca paper and forming them around plaster shoe forms.

A mold maker made the molds of two different sized pairs of shoe lasts I found in an antique shop. With eight pairs of plaster casts I wrapped sheets of paper around them and allowed them to dry. The top and bottom of the shoes had to be made separately and then glued together, lastly the details added to the shoes.

In total I made one hundred and fifty pairs of shoes for these three pieces.

A pencil line is drawn on the wall representing the US/Mexican border and nails placed in the wall to show approximate placement of some of the shelters in the border states.

The research for these pieces took me to government and historical sites, newspaper archives and of course Amazon to purchase books I needed to read and not readily available in the library. Unfortunately I also came across all the hate speech that resided then on the internet.

If you are interested in purchasing this work you can do so directly through the artist by contacting Pam Cooper or visit


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