Project Description

OYSTERS is part of Quintan Ana Wikswo’s evolving body of work OUT HERE DEATH IS NO BIG DEAL, part of which surrounds the network of safe houses and shelters for sex trafficked women and children in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, Southern Arizona, and the Tohono O’Odham Nation. OYSTERS is a glimpse into a week in the life of the women who operate and inhabit the shelter network: the beauticians at the salon who operate an underground railway, the medics at the nearby US Army Fort Huachuca, and the renegade trysts between women on weekend leave to nearby Mexican fishing villages. 

Artist Statement

While I worked along the border, the realities of life made it impossible to write about the experience of helping set up these shelters and safe houses for a group of people who can only be called gender crimes refugees. Our youngest occupants were newborns. Behind the secret walls, stories and wounds emerged of human cruelty on a level of complexity and barbarity that I found impossible to comprehend even while I bore witness. Over time, the differences between the lives of the “helpers” and the “helped” seemed to merge into a continuum of female experience that I had not – previously – entirely conceptualized.  The constant level of secrecy, confidentiality, high security, and omnipresent fear of retaliative violence underscored the degree of power than men and male perpetrators maintained at all levels of society. Several years later, I am beginning to excavate the lives we led at that time, one story at a time.


excerpted from OYSTERS 
by Quintan Ana Wikswo

first performed at Cornelia Street Cafe


On Mondays, we go down south to Penasco, in the part of Mexico where nobody cares.

There, we hold hands and we’re sisters. We kiss on the boardwalk.

We run our fingers wherever the hell we want and we have loud sex in double beds and eat pussy and out-of season oysters and there are fireworks, and a racetrack, and beaches.

There is only one lesbian bar in Magdalena, and it’s not really a lesbian bar.

Published in Cornelia Street Cafe (performed September 2012)



OYSTERS is supported by Flashpoint/NYC, Cornelia Street Cafe, and Montalvo Arts Center.

First performed at Cornelia Street Cafe in New York City.