ON VIEW: August 22 - September 20, 2020

Meet the Artist: Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sign up via Eventbrite to meet the artist in-person! Time slots are 12:00pm - 1:00pm; 1:15pm - 2:15pm; 2:30pm - 3:30pm. Registration is required, as a limited number of visitors will be allowed in the gallery space at the same time.


Mark Nelson's work was forged by his childhood experiences overseas. Raised as a Colonial American outside of the continental U.S., his international travels culminated in a near twenty-year residence within the Republic of Panama where he developed an interest in visual and performing arts. Nelson returned to the USA to finish his formal education in the 1980’s at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by an MFA at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Nelson’s work can be found in private and public collections that includes a canvas mural in the US Embassy collection in the Republic of Panama. Nelson has also participated in several public projects such as the Cows on Parade and Lighthouses on the Mag Mile.  Mark Nelson has been a resident of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood artist community at his Gringolandia Studio for 22 years and a participant in the 18th Street Pilsen Open Studios. Learn more. 

Read Mark Nelson's CV.


If you asked a young child what they thought human traffic was they might tell you it’s being stuck in a crowded room with too many tall legs around you or an adolescent might tell you it means pedestrians, and to many adults it might symbolize the migration of people or on a local scale represent the motion of commuters or festive attendees. What they are less likely to connect with is the flow of hidden and illicit human trafficking that they may not be aware of.  

Our government defines trafficking involving the “use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act and is modern-day slavery,” and this also includes forced marriage and human organ extraction. Remember when your parents told you to not talk to strangers? This was the first lesson in being safe from abduction or harm. Although many indigenous Americans were the first to be enslaved in the 1500’s, human slavery can be traced back to ancient times as spoils of war, power and greed. In America, we usually think of the industrialization of slavery regarding the African Diaspora where millions experienced trauma and genocide. Today, human trafficking continues to thrive internationally. According to the Center for Global Impact, there are four main areas that people fall prey to traffickers; “Leaving a place of poverty to gain wealth, political conditions, war, or social and cultural practices.” One example are routine reports of migrant workers crossing into Libya only to be captured and sold into slavery. The United Nations addresses the root causes and believes the following areas are where we can combat human trafficking, 

  • Reducing the vulnerability of potential victims through social and economic development

  • Discouraging the demand for the services of trafficked persons

  • Public education

  • Border control

  • Preventing the corruption of public officials

These paintings I created were initially an attempt to have a dialogue about immigration on our southern border where thousands of asylum seekers experienced confinement and human trafficking conducted by our own government as immigrants were shuffled around and confined like prisoners and their children separated from them to seemingly disappear. The more I worked on these paintings, the more I began associating the plight of Central America with that of Native America, Black America and all Americans who have had their rights and dignity challenged over the color of their skin or the accent of their voice.

View installation images.


This exhibition will be held in the Main Second Floor and Atrium Gallery of the Evanston Art Center (EAC). When arriving at the EAC during our Gallery Hours, please wait outside and call us at (847) 475-5300 for entry. All visitors are required to wear masks and take their temperature upon entry using provided gloves, and share results with an EAC staff member. Please adhere to 6' social distancing requirements when in the gallery space. 

Gallery Hours

Monday - Friday: 1 pm - 6 pm

Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm

Sunday: 12 pm - 4 pm



If you are interested in purchasing artwork on display, please contact Cara Feeney, Director of Exhibitions, at or (847) 475-5300 x 107.

This project is partially funded by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Saturday, August 22, 2020 - 9:00am to Sunday, September 20, 2020 - 4:00pm