Ladders and Walls - installation 2021-2022  - Scott Nicol.jpg
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Terrorists and Terrorist Weapons - 2021 - Scott Nicol.jpg

Ladders and Walls

Walls built along the U.S.-Mexico border are a vain attempt to manifest an abstraction, to make a ribbon of ink on a map into concrete and steel on the landscape. Ladders are a subversion of that effort, revealing the futility of attempting to wall off the border. As soon as the first border walls went up in South Texas ladders began to accumulate alongside them. Scrap lumber and a handful of nails defeat barriers that have absorbed billions of federal dollars. 

The materiality of ladders that I have picked up by the border wall, with their bent nails, weathered wood, and muddy footprints still on their rungs, alludes to the longer journeys that each played a part in. Largely unaltered, standing sentinel in the gallery, they bear witness to their brief usage. So too the innertube, still caked with mud from the Rio Grande, speaks of the person (or family) that rode it across the river. This body of work is composed of fragments, fleeting moments extracted from long journeys, around which larger stories can be pieced together.

The rough manufacture of the ladders points to the hands that built them, the people that so much national treasure is devoted to repelling. Scraps of salvaged and splintered wood are cobbled together by people who are fleeing violence and poverty. They use what is at hand as they reach for a better life.  But in the United States we fear poverty, and we reject those who suffer from it.  We hide behind our walls.

This body of work marks a convergence between my sculptures, with the branches of South Texas trees opening sails of beeswax infused with pollen, and my activism, opposing the ecological and social destruction inflicted by border walls and the broader violence of the United States’ “prevention through deterrence” border policies inflicts upon border communities and border crossers. It is difficult work to make.

As I told Texas Public Radio in regards to this work, "We, as a nation, have somehow decided that we’re afraid of poverty. We’re afraid of people who are just basically trying to get by and to feed their families. And so we spend billions of dollars every year in a failed attempt to keep out people that if we were a compassionate nation, we should be trying to help."  

Scott Nicol