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El Sueño Americano

El Sueño Americano: The American Dream

Works by Thomas Kiefer

October 26 - January 4


There is something deeply thought provoking behind the images presented in El Sueño Americano: Why was all this thrown away and to whom did it belong?


Working as a janitor at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility from July 2003 until August 2014, Tom Kiefer saw the immense volume of food, clothing and personal belongings thrown away at that single facility. Many of the items were confiscated as people moved through the Border Patrol facility, others were left behind.



Over the years Kiefer collected thousands of items from Bibles to tubes of toothpaste, stuffed animals to wallets -- the stuff of everyday life along with highly personal and presumably valued items. He continued to wonder to whom they belonged and what had happened to their owners. From Kiefer’s experiences “El Sueño Americano” was created.


The simple but moving images in “El Sueño Americano” tell the stories of hundreds of men, women, and children, families, couples, and singles. Keifer invites us to pause, reflect, and empathize with fellow humans through their possessions (many of which were forcibly taken from them) and to ultimately see a reflection of ourselves.


Born in Wichita, raised primarily in the Seattle area, Tom Kiefer lived in Los Angeles for 20 years before moving to Ajo, Arizona to further his development as an artist and photographer and has been living there full time since 2001. In 2007, Kiefer’s first project “Journey West Exhibit”, chronicled the landscape, structures and cultural markers connecting the cities of Phoenix, Tucson and Ajo. From July 2003 to August 2014 he was employed part-time as a janitor at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility near Ajo which led to his ongoing project “El Sueño Americano”; the recovered personal belongings of migrants from the trash seized and discarded by Border Patrol agents. Since being released In August 2015, “El Sueño Americano” has received recognition from LensCulture (Top 50 Emerging Photographers) and Photolucida’s Critical Mass top 50. Recent press includes the New Yorker's Photo Booth.