Controversial Name for Art Exhibit in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. The first drawing in Marcos Dorado's new art project is a self-portrait, the face of a former illegal immigrant.

"They feel afraid of being persecuted in some way. They feel such a negative stigma," said Dorado.

Dorado is putting together a collection of drawings of men and women who, like himself, came to this country illegally but have since become residents or citizens of the U.S.

Dorado said, "The idea was inspired by a commentary that I read on a website."

Dorado read a story about Dr. Alfredo Quinonez Hinojoza, who, as an illegal immigrant, worked the fields of the Central Valley and is now a world renowned neurosurgeon. It was a derogatory comment left by a reader of that internet article that inspired Dorado's project.

"It felt more like a sucker punch-- it felt like maybe there needs more stories like this that helps orient people to a more positive perspective of immigrants," said Dorado.

The drawings will be accompanied by short biographies written by the models themselves ... describing their personal journeys. Dorado has titled the project "Wetback".

Dorado said, "Generally, this word is used to describe this group of people in a very negative way ... but let's now look a little further and look at these positive examples."

The Fresno Arts Council will exhibit Dorado's work at city hall next May. Director Cindy Dunn says the work was chosen for its quality but knows the subject matter and title may draw criticism.

"One of things that art does is generate conversation and critical thinking," said Dunn.

Dorado says what he hopes his project will inspire in others is a deeper appreciation for people.

Dorado said, "Behind all of those titles or all of those names that we assign to people there are individual stories that are amazing and that are common across the board regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religious affiliation."

Marcos Dorado says so far, no one he's approached to participate in the project has taken issue with the title. He is still looking for models to complete the 25-piece exhibit.

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