“Pi’êep Káru Payêem–Long Ago and Today” Catalog

Got my copy of the “Pi’êep Káru Payêem–Long Ago and Today” exhibit catalog this past weekend. I was super excited to see this since it included many of the items on display at the Clark Museum. Also, one of my paintings made it to the cover, which was cool! Edited by Karuk Artist and Tribal Member, Julian Lang, it really has a lot of information and images. See below for the page with my two pieces that were included in the show. I still distinctly remember making both of those, but it’s been almost two years since then!

Heaven and Earth: Rootbound Update

A little while ago I had written about my work being stolen from Carkeek Park. Well, I ended up making something new and installing it that weekend. The new piece is still a dream catcher, but larger and more colorful. Also, there is just the one instead of three. And this one is teardrop shaped and hung between two trees close to the original location where the three original dream catchers were hung in a tree.

The one thing that sucked is that I had brought my Nikon with me and photographed it right after I installed. Unfortunately, there was an issue with my card and I ended up losing them all when I was attempting to download the images. Luckily, I had also taken some backup shots with my iPhone. They weren’t as high of quality as I was hoping for, but they did save the day in terms of having some documentation!

Now the question is, how long will this piece last in the park? It’s been a week so far and I haven’t heard anything yet…

Busy Summer and Feathers

This summer has been so full recently between my day job, the EDGE Program I’ve been participating in, and embarking on improving my physicial health. I’m not complaining though! Everything has been great.

The final presentations for EDGE are this upcoming Friday evening (August 3rd)and then our class is also putting on a group show at BallardWorks the following weekend (Saturday, August 11th).

Today I photographed all of my paintings and framed prints that are in my posession. I’ve got a lot to do to implement the things I’ve learned in the class. I think my next step is going to be to work on a new website.

I always notice feathers on the ground lately and have started to photograph them on occasion with my phone (see images above). I’m sure there’s some sort of project in here somewhere…

Missing: Artwork!!!

It has been an exhausting past number of days! I had heard that a review of the CoCA show was going to be appearing in The Stranger, but was disappointed when I finally read it (Art Eating Park) last Friday. Not only was the writer not particularly impressed with the show, but my work was summed up as: “a deflating attempt to connect to a majestic tradition with three unremarkable dream catchers hung from a tree on a lawn.” What made it worse is that the full title of the article was “Art Eating Park: Dream Catchers Are Not Going to Cut It.”

Well, as you can imagine, this was rather depressing to have my first public mention in writing be negative, and I certainly wasn’t feeling very upbeat after reading it. Having had a few days to process things, I was feeling much better about it all. And then I heard from the curator of the show tonight that my work has gone missing from the park! Don’t know if there is any connection between the article appearing and the work disappearing or not, but I’m not overly surprised since it is in a public space.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the review. I’m not going to respond and defend my work or my choices as she is certainly entitled to her opinion. I do have two things that struck me about the article though. First was that the park itself seemed to have made a much bigger impression on her than the art.

You get lost. Your eyes take so long riding up the endless trunks of trees that you’re blind-tripping on the roots. If this place spoke, it would only say one word: respect.

While I do think it is a beautiful park, I also still find it very much to be a park and not a wilderness area. There are vast mowed fields and meadows, parking lots, a playground, picnic shelters, a bridge to take one over the adjacent railroad tracks and down to a small beach area, and more. As far as respect-inducing parks go for me, this one is rather tame for the Pacific Northwest.

The other thing I’ve been mulling over is her choice of referring to dream catchers as “a majestic tradition.” My work aside, this choice of wording came off as a little patronizing towards the Ojibwe culture where the tradition originated. I may well be reading more into it than is there, but I’m not sure whether she’s trying to be respectful to Native cultures with a grand statement, or if she says this because she has a preconceived notion of what a “real” dream catcher should be. Beyond that, I’ve also never considered dream catchers to be majestic. They are more introspective, personal objects. Now, if she was talking about another stereotypically Native object, the headdress, I wouldn’t have the same problem. “Majestic” is better suited there as the item is made with the intention that it be visually intimidating.

So now the question at hand is how to respond to the loss of my work. The three feathers are still there, just the dreamcatchers were taken. Should I use this as an opportunity to make and hang new work? Should I consider the disappearance to be in keeping with the title (I Will Go Back and Not Come Out)? I’ll have to mull it over.

Artful Weekend

“I Will Go Back and Not Come Out”

Got to Carkeek Park at long last today (well, a week after the opening) to photograph my work with my good camera instead of just using my phone. The previous pictures I had tried to adjust in Photoshop and they just ended up looking SO green. It didn’t hurt that we got some advice yesterday in our EDGE class from a photographer about documenting our work.

Also was able to check out some of the other artwork which was fun, and included a piece by Miguel Edwards who gave the talk about photography!

It has been an artful weekend indeed. Also visited Seattle Art Museum which I hadn’t been to in a long while. Loved the current Aboriginal Australian exhibit that is up, but that deserves another dedicated post. Diving back into reality tomorrow with a dentist appointment and then a full day of work.

“of doubtful attractiveness for morality”

Guests browse more than 20 local, Native American artists’ booths during the 2008 In The Spirit Native Arts Market and Festival.
(Christopher Nelson photo, Washington State Historical Society)

The EDGE Program has been pretty awesome so far. (Thank you Artist Trust!) We’re three sessions into it and I’ve already gained valuable insights and information into creating a life as a successful working artist. One thing I think it will be extremely helpful with is in mapping out our dreams and goals as individual artists. There are sixteen of us and we seem to be a pretty diverse group who are serious about building our skills on the business side of our practices.

So what’s on my mind? Indian Arts Markets/Festivals. I have yet to personally exhibit any of my work at one of these events and have felt somewhat conflicted about whether I should or not. On one hand, it seems like “the thing to do” for Native (and many other) artists. But somehow, maintaining a travelling show of my work on a Native American arts circuit just doesn’t feel right to me. Full disclosure: I do have some of my work through From the River Collective that has been included in events like this, but that also seems different as I am being represented as opposed to maintaining a booth of my own.

A week or so ago, I ran across an article (Why there ain’t no such a-thing as “Aboriginal culture”) that instantly put things into a clearer focus for me on this subject. And let me start by saying that I’m not passing judgement on these events or the people who participate in them. I’m just clarifying–mainly for myself–why I have chosen not to pursue this particular avenue for promoting my work.

The article is written by a Canadian about First Nations/Aboriginal issues, but can just as easily apply to the United States. Here’s a section:

No, what gets me is the crass commercialism and blatant fleecing of the crowd, one perhaps lured by the call of the drum but more likely by increasingly slick advertising for…  what? ‘Aboriginal culture?’

The signs are up at every single one of these gatherings: “Welcome to (insert place) Powwow, a celebration of Aboriginal culture.” It might be in Wikwemikong, Fort Alexander, Carcross, Winnipeg, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Kahnawake, Ohsweken. They’re all guilty of promoting something called “Aboriginal culture.”

This is bad enough for the idiots among us. But the real target is the poor unknowing Caucasian who wouldn’t know the difference between Ojibway and Algonquin, Mi’kmaq or Maliseet. For all I know, these poor suckers might actually believe this is how we live all year round, in little powwow villages called reserves, surviving on bison burgers, corn soup and selling each other mass produced dreamcatchers.

Of course, they’ve heard about Attawapiskat. But that’s a place that doesn’t look like a powwow village. Perhaps this is the real reason for their outrage last winter.  Maybe, they think, folks up there don’t sell each other enough dreamcatchers and bison burgers and that’s the real reason why that place is in such a mess.

But that isn’t the point. This is: there ain’t no such a-thing as “Aboriginal culture.”

“Aboriginal culture” is a false construct, a somewhat pleasing but ultimately stupefying myth. I expect some idiot to tell a reporter someday that he ain’t Cree — he’s Aboriginal! Or she isn’t Anishnabe — she’s Aboriginal!  Or they’re not Inuvialuit — they’re Aboriginal.  When — not if — that happens, I’ll know that we’ll have totally failed as storytellers and artists and playwrights because we haven’t done a good enough job to protect and explore our own cultures. By falling for this one word, we encourage a process that erases our national identities and helps dissolve us all into one big tasteless, meaningless pot of cold mush.

He is obviously angry about the situation and for good reason. The same thing happens in the States with the terms “Native American” and “American Indian.” These labels are constructs for a colonized people, for the ease and use of the dominant society. Do I use these terms? Of course I do! I actively participate in life in an urban American setting. But these pan-Indian events and the commodifying of many cultures into one neatly commercialized package doesn’t really show respect to our traditions and ancestors.

So no, you will not see me as a vendor at any Native Arts Markets in the near future. This does not mean that I will not allow my work to appear in them, or will refuse to personally attend these types of events… I just don’t want to promote and commercialize my work in this particular manner.

I don’t have a problem if non-Native people collect my work (it would be silly if I did since I’m mixed-race myself), but I disagree with this mode of selling my work. Why? Because it feels less like people are genuinely interested in the work itself than in purchasing items that will allow them to feel like they now own something that is “authentically Indian.” Because of the division between the Native and non-Native people attending, and their reasons for doing so. Because it feels like a modern day continuation of the tradition of exhibiting Indigenous people from across the globe for European/American amusement at World Fairs. I’ll close with a quote from an attendee at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago:

“There was about the Midway Plaisance a peculiar attraction for me. It presents Asiatic and African and other forms of life native to the inhabitants of the globe. It is the world in miniature. While it is of doubtful attractiveness for morality, it certainly emphasizes the value, as well as the progress, of our civilization. There are presented on the Midway real and typical representatives of nearly all the races of the earth, living in their natural methods, practicing their home arts, and presenting their so-called native amusements. The denizens of the Midway certainly present an interesting study to the ethnologist, and give the observer an opportunity to investigate these barbarous and semi-civilized people without the unpleasant accompaniments of travel through their countries and contact with them.” -Interview of Chauncey M. Depew, excerpt “None can compare with it”- -The New York Times June 19, 1893 page 5-