Cultural Contact and Linguistic Relativity…

Just got this book from Amazon the other day. While I’m not a linguist and much of it is more detailed than I really need, it is still quite interesting to learn more about my tribe (Karuk) and their surrounding neighbors (Hupa and Yurok). Here are a couple of things I noted about Karuk language:

“Spoken inland, along the upper arm of the Klamath River, the Karuk language has no close relatives anywhere on the planet. Yet at a highly submerged level, it shows a number of deep correspondences with the remaining members of the Hokan stock. This linguistic group was, in aboriginal times, widely distributed throughout much of California, Arizona, and northern Mexico, so the fact that Karuk shares a deep historical connection with other languages long established in the surrounding geographical area is not suprising.” (25)

“As a unit, the Karuk expression for ‘world’ literally refers to that relatively stationary tract of land ‘that lies around us.'” (123)


Wild Yam Dreaming

Anooralya (Wild Yam Dreaming), 1995, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, (2000.157 Seattle Art Museum)

I loooove this painting. It is usually one of my stops whenever I find myself at the Seattle Art Museum. This little image doesn’t really do it justice as it is pretty big and very vibrant. What got me thinking about it again was a link to an article on E-Flux about an exhibit at Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany called Remembering Forward: Australian Aboriginal Painting since 1960. (Ms. Kngwarreye also has work in this show.)

Here’s some of the text from the article. I’ve bolded the parts I thought were most significant.

It is far more than living memory: it is a sensory, non-linear intertwining of past and future, of cause and effect, that distinguishes Australian Aboriginal painting. In Europe these unusual artworks are still largely unknown. The Museum Ludwig will devote attention to them in a large exhibition of approximately fifty paintings by nine outstanding artists of the past five decades.

Despite their origins in remote regions of Australia, these works are central contributions to contemporary art and expand our understanding of painting. By including a selection of artists from various regions—the Western and Central Desert, the Kimberley and Arnhem Land—the exhibition also acknowledges the diversity of Australia’s different Indigenous cultures.

These works by nine outstanding artists represent the creative interpenetration of tradition and modernity.

This exhibition places particular emphasis on the artists behind the works, whose individual styles and developments become clear. Their works are not understood as expressions of their cultural backgrounds; rather, they are the artistic presentation of the interpenetration of tradition and modernity. The artists have all chosen to paint stories based on their Dreamings, from the oral tradition of the time of creation. These creation myths describe, according to Aboriginal beliefs, how the ancestors formed the land, but at the same time they reach into the future. The artworks must thus be understood as a highly current involvement with this system of beliefs, not as the reprocessing of a cultural history. Together with modern materials such as acrylic paints and canvas, this has led to highly innovative visual representations and new developments of content as well.

Playing Indian: Tom Ford

Found this when I was browsing the web and saw an article about the upcoming issue of French Vogue being guest-edited by Tom Ford. This picture was the teaser and also accompanied the article along with a few other shots. Of course it caught my attention due to the Indian headdress at first. I’m not sure quite what I think of it. On the one hand, I can look at it as a stereotypical treatment of a white man “playing Indian.” However, there is so much in the fashion world that deals with fantasy and imagination that I find it hard to condemn this. If not respectful, the use of the headdress along with the addition of the horse is romantic. Which leads me to believe that this must be an advertisement for something.

Knowledge of what, exactly?

I’ve been working on my triangles for hours now. Also been reading more of Almanac of the Dead. Robohontas was sitting near my desk and I finally gave her some eyes today. Now she’s truly alive. I posed her in front of my painting and took a quick iPhone photo. Gotta love having the ability to do that. I have a title for the painting I’m working on also, Blood and Gold. Still in progress, but it has come a long way from where it was yesterday when I took the photo. Much more red now.

One other thing… I’ve been using this bookmark I got last fall on a trip to visit Montpelier. There’s a quote on it that I’d never really read before. Or if I had, I didn’t remember it. Looked at it today and it seems to apply to so much more than just the American Revolution. It all depends on how you choose to interpret knowledge and ignorance.

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

–James Madison, Letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

Post-Thanksgiving Triangles

This is what I’m currently working on. It has been a busy week with snowfall here in the Seattle area that always tends to shut things down since we don’t get a lot of snow. Of course, since I live next door to my day job, I didn’t have an excuse to not be there. I’m still really full from yesterday (Thanksgiving) and it was rather nice to have just spent some time painting triangles before we head out to investigate the possibility of a Christmas tree. While I was working, Bryn came in and pulled up “Rule 30” on Wikipedia. Below is an example of a Wolfram Rule 30-like design in nature.

Salish Expressionism®


One of the artists who also had some work in the silent auction last night was Jeffrey Veregge. This is one of his works from his website and I really like his work. I got to meet him last night too and he was a really great guy. About this work he says:

“I tried to think of what balance may mean to Natives. Growing up on my “rez” and what it may mean to my tribe. I thought of water and canoes. I then decided on a surreal approach, had the hair of a Native woman become a wave and a Native Canoer, who represents Native tradition, bringing the Native approach back to the mind.”

He also calls his work “Salish Expressionism®.” I really like what he has to say about it and find myself in agreement with him about his viewpoint on an approach to creating Native artwork.

“I call my style Salish Expressionism®. It is a hybrid of Coastal Salish art and Native themes, mixed with various other artistic influences, mainly: Primitivism, Surrealism and Expressionism. It is a feeling or gesture that has been given weight in order to contain a glimpse of: hope or pain . . . heartache or happiness . . . love or hate. It is communication of emotion.

Picasso once said:
“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”

It is not my desire to tear down the walls of Traditional Native art. It is a rich artistic heritage that I cannot ignore. I intend to use it as a foundation. To help me create a form of art that speaks to all peoples, taking in the world, yet keeping a Native flavor. I believe that by creating this artistic hybrid, I am embracing the future, while honoring the past.”

Potlatch Fund Gala

After a long day of work, I headed over to Seattle for the event and am glad I did. I got to see a couple of folks I knew, met some more really great people, and was honored to have helped support Potlatch Fund. They do amazing work in Indian country! It was pretty cool too, because the table I ended up being sat at was in the perfect spot, smack-dab in the center of the ballroom. I couldn’t have asked for a better seat. The emcee was Gene Tagaban and his wife was sitting one person down and she was really cool. Also, it looked like both of my prints sold in the silent auction, so I was glad that my art helped to give back to the Native Artist Grant programs for the future. I was really grateful to receive funding from them in 2009 and was more than happy to try and do my part.