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I started this painting when I first heard about the 1300 immigrant children that had gone missing. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; how careless those in charge were being with these young lives. I felt helpless, yet I couldn’t let it go. What could I do about it on top of voicing my concern via emails and phone calls? Then, one day it came to me; the idea to draw every little person that had gone missing. I am an artist and I could use my art as a way of saying, “No. This is not ok. Where are these children?” I went straight to my studio and taped up a 5ft x 4ft piece of water color paper and immediately started drawing.

@2000 Taken by Frances Tulk-Hart

The news then started reporting on how families were being separated at the borders – children as young as 8 months were being ripped from their parents arms and placed in separate detention centers. It broke my heart. I spent many days crying at this cruel and unnecessary punishment. I am a parent myself and the thought of my babies being taken away is more painful than I can imagine. It is every parents worst nightmare and it was happening to thousands of people right here in our own country. I continued to draw and the painting grew as I decided to draw all the children separated from their parents. Initially, I was going to draw it and then show the finished piece as my protest but I realized I wanted to invite people to follow along and show my protest every day. I started an Instagram page called @2000taken where I post a photo of 30 new drawings of kids per day.

What could I do about it on top of voicing my concern via emails and phone calls? Then, one day it came to me; the idea to draw every little person that had gone missing.

Every morning I get up at 4am before I wake my kids to add to this painting. As the project grew, I decided to include every day personal stories on Instagram as an attempt to keep the parents and kids involved in the separations as human as possible. I invited other parents to share their own personal stories about the connection they had with their kids. My project evolved from a personal project to a community platform where mothers and fathers, aunties and uncles could come and share their stories. It allowed people to show their protest in a peaceful and loving way. By talking about love and the special moments each and every one of us has with our children, we are showing the every day, deep, beautiful, and sacred bonds that tie us to each other. This continuous example of love, highlights how much we deeply love and cherish our children and how for not one single second could we ever imagine the pain and suffering of having them taken away from us. And yet, it is really happening to thousands of parents and children. So often there is the attitude of “Us” and “Them” that clouds our thinking, but as one parent so eloquently put in a post, “these are our children, each faceless child.” Not everyone has a place they can show their protest, but I’d like to think I created a place where they can do so.

@2000Taken artist Frances Tulk-Hart

My protest is one as a mother. This is not a political stance, in fact I hope it can help unite Americans as this is neither a Republican or Democratic voice, it is simply one of a concerned mother. Since having children, my soul has been cracked wide open and my empathy for other mothers, for those struggling has blossomed thru the cracks. No matter what your opinions are on immigration (and it is a hotly debated topic) it cannot be denied that many of these parents are running from terrifying violence and are just trying to give their kids the best life possible. I know I would do anything for my children – anything – and I think the majority of parents reading this would do the same for theirs.

This is not a political stance, in fact I hope it can help unite Americans as this is neither a Republican or Democratic voice, it is simply one of a concerned mother.

So far, I have drawn around 700 children. Seeing these children spilling out onto the paper gives you a visual on how many kids are in these detention centers. When you actually start seeing what that looks like, it is pretty powerful.

@2000Taken by Frances Tulk-Hart

The news now tells us that there are close to 3000 children separated from their parents and this project is turning into a massive one. I have decided I would like to paint each child. I initially thought the starkness of the pencil against the paper was relevant to the piece, but as the project has grown and morphed, so too has my thinking about coloring it. I am going to need to start putting a lot more time into working on my piece as two hours a day is not enough. I am hoping that through sponsorship, I will be able to dedicate my days to painting this. I will carry on painting it until it is is finished. This is a memento to what happened, a reminder of all these little children ripped from their parents and all their suffering. A painting that won’t let people forget what happened in America. Once the painting is complete, my plan is to donate it to a museum or have it travel to other institutions and museums around the country.

 

Frances Tulk-Hart is a photographer and artist who lives in the wild wooly countryside of New England with her husband and two children. 

Photos by Milly Tulk-Hart.

For more stories about the Border Crisis, click here.

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