Dallas artists Scott Gleeson and Dane Larsen have received a Warhol Grant for their public art project, Las Manos Negras (The Black Hands), a multi-faceted piece that seeks to shine a light on the explotation of laborers in Dallas-Fort Worth, while empowering workers and building bridges between the exploited and the exploiters.
Since August 2011, LMN has been operating at known day labor hire sites in East Dallas, Plano, Garland, and Irving talking to workers about their needs and studying their distinctive uses of the urban landscape. Workers are understandably mistrustful of our intentions at first and many are reluctant to speak out about victimization for fear of losing employment opportunities,” says Larsen, “the stories we have heard thus far corroborate statistics in wage theft reports published by the Workers Defense Project (Austin) and the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project (El Paso); however, we are finding that certain workers are more at risk than others, with some experiencing repeated incidents of wage theft.”
The finished project will contain a variety of elements, including recorded stories from workers and plaster casts of workers’ hands (cast in clay from the Rio Grande, no less), placed in vintage lunchboxes to create a kind of portable archive. There will also be a online component.
The listener will be encouraged to manipulate archival documents and ceramic casts while listening to the recorded narrative. Worker’s stories will be available to the public through a bilingual project website, www.lasmanosnegras.org (September, 2012), administered by nationally recognised public artist Justin Shull.