Foundling is an installation by artist Megan Rye that features 100 portraits of children who were adopted by American parents from countries in Asia and Africa, including the artist herself. Rye defines a “foundling” as a person who is “twice born, once at abandonment and again at reclamation.”
This project criticizes the commercialization of international adoption within the United States. All of the paintings by Rye are based on referral photos used by adoption agencies to introduce the awaiting children to international families interested in adopting. Since the 1970s, adoption agencies found photographs to be an effective tool in recruiting adoptive families and to maximize the chances of a child’s placement. Photos provide visual information of a child’s appearance, ethnicity, and a superficial evaluation of health.
Rye paints portraits of adoption photos onto shopping bags from Target, a nationwide retail chain that, for Rye, epitomizes the consumption culture of the United States. By painting her subjects over the red Target logo, Rye challenges the role that referral photographs have played in commodifying the international adoption of children.
As of 2018, an estimated 35,000 adoptees from overseas do not have United States citizenship, and some have been deported to their birth countries. Prior to 2000, adopting parents were required to apply for U.S. citizenship for their adopted children. Over the decades, thousands of parents did not successfully complete this process. Rye’s installation represents support for the current adoption community in the United States.
This exhibition also includes select works from the Spencer's collection that relate to adoption and comment on immigrants’ experiences in the United States.