Ada Trillo’s “On My Way to America”

For InLiquid’s 2021 Benefit, we’re talking to artists to get the stories behind themselves and their work being featured this year! Ada Trillo‘s work, On My Way To America, is included in this year’s Benefit, which runs April 7 – 11 both in person by appointment, and online. Keep reading for her thoughts on the Philly art scene, why art matters, and the story behind this moving piece.

Jeffrey Holder: Does coming from Philadelphia – and the arts scene here – offer you any unique perspectives / challenges / advantages in terms of how you approach your international work?

Ada Trillo: If we’re thinking of convenience, being based in Philadelphia is great for meetings. I travel frequently, and nothing is better than the Eastern timezone for the international market. 

More importantly, Philly has given me an abundance of support for my art. Considering the Philadelphia Museum of Art has 4 of my pieces, and I’m featured in a few important collections in the city, the scene supports the arts. Beyond that, Philadelphia is home to some of the most extraordinary people I know. My peers have given me great feedback and helped encourage me to be who I am today.

JH: Why photography?

AT: Why not?

Sure, I can capture a similar image in a painting, but photography is immediate. I cannot capture a portrait as it happens, but in documentary photography, there is limited editing; What you see is what you get. A photograph is honest and holds a moment in history, with all of its emotion and weight. That alone makes it a powerful art form. 

JH: What was your most difficult or even frightening moment on the job as an artist? And what inspired you to keep going through it all?

AT: Definitely my journey on the train La Bestia. Not only is traveling on the train extremely dangerous, but I was nearly sexually assaulted. At one point, the officer held me at gunpoint. I was blessed to get out of that situation without being hurt. 

Walking alongside the caravans isn’t about me. I’m inspired to keep going because the migrants are inspiring. My projects are dedicated to advocating for them and telling their stories. The migrants are dedicated and integral and deserve to be treated with dignity. 

JH: Tell us about the piece you have in the upcoming Benefit. What’s the story there?

AT: In January 2020, We were in Tecun-unan, Guatemala, approaching the border into Mexico. The people were so enthusiastic as they prepared; you could feel their determination. Everyone was certain they were going to make it into the next part of their journey. 

I’m often asked why the featured flag is missing stars; It was made from scratch without a reference. So, it was imperfectly made with good intentions. 

During the Biden era, this image is still relevant—It is still about the shared dream of thousands of Central Americans. They want to be included in the American story and contribute to the beautiful diversity that makes up this country. 

In this picture, One member of the migrant caravan carries a self-made United States flag to demonstrate his enthusiasm to become an American citizen. His homeland’s conditions are so dangerous that he is willing to pick up a new flag and start a new life in a country he doesn’t know and doesn’t want him. This dynamic produces a mixture of desperation and hope that won’t be dissuaded by tear gas and riot shields.

Moreover, it is a reminder that if you work hard to acquire your dream, you might see the outcome you desire. 

JH: Why does art matter?

AT: Art starts a conversation. It creates a space where people from all backgrounds and creeds: Black, White, Brown, Asian, LGBTQ+, Disabled, and many others can integrate and find common ground. No matter who you are, art can touch the human spirit. It represents our experience as a collective and can perfectly capture how we feel. In doing so, it can make us all feel more connected. 

What is most extraordinary about art is that it can advocate for change. No matter who views it, art can leave a lasting impact. No matter how big or small, art makes things happen. 

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