“I do not feel pulled by different cultures, so much as I feel like I am not part of any specific culture other that the art world.”
Ana Vizcarra Rankin is a painter, sculptor, and mixed-media artist.
We—my mom, dad, three-year-old sister, and I—moved from Uruguay to Oklahoma a few days before I turned twelve. My father had received a scholarship to pursue a masters in animal science at Oklahoma State University, and stayed to get his PhD. Both my mom and dad are currently university professors in Alabama. I don’t remember much from the day I left, but I remember getting ice cream at our layover in Sao Pablo. It was my first time flying.
I do not recall a send-off meal, but we grilled half a lamb and a lot of beef earlier that year in celebration of our upcoming adventure. My first two years after arrival were traumatic. Uruguay’s sixth grade education was significantly more advanced in the sciences and math, but I was held back due to the language barrier. Once I conquered English, I was moved to more challenging classes, but remained an outcast until well past high school graduation. Thankfully we “nerds” tried to stick together even back then.
Originally we had planned to stay only for the duration of my dad’s studies, but after he received a National Interest Waiver, the same document that was granted to Albert Einstein, I understood that our future would be better in the USA. Nonetheless, I desperately missed the ocean and moved to the East Coast as soon as I was able.
I do not feel pulled by different cultures, so much as I feel like I am not part of any specific culture other that the art world. Uruguay is a very diverse country, and my ethnicity is a mix of Welch, Portuguese, Polish and Austro-Hungarian. I have Catholic and Jewish family, but they are mostly scientifically minded and do not adhere to tradition.
I love Philadelphia, and there is nowhere else I would rather be, but my desire for travel and exploration is unquenchable. I believe that I am part of a new sub-culture of nomadic elites that act as ambassadors for global congruence. We may not be particularly affluent or privileged, but we live very rich lives.
Having gained a nuanced and broad perspective of society has simultaneously benefitted and caused me great heartache. For many years, I felt isolated because I do not fit within any particular ethnocultural stereotype. Then I found out that there is an entire population of expatriates, immigrants, and neo-nomads with complex backgrounds that feel equally disenchanted with these narrow societal confines. I believe that the diverse and culturally abundant Philadelphia environment is responsible for helping me discover this.
I have identified as an artist since my earliest childhood memories. I have never deviated from my path in that regard. While in Uruguay, I received an exceptional art education during my primary school years, and in Oklahoma I was blessed with an incredibly nurturing art teacher while attending Stillwater’s only public high school. The so-called immigrant experience has informed my work in ways that were not as apparent to me until I finally qualified for financial assistance and could obtain my BA in art history and my MFA, where I was encouraged to unpack the effect of my origins.
Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.