Indigenous Metropolis/Immigrant Wilderness series

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  • i love ny (2007)

    A raw deer hide is stretched on a frame made from stripped saplings lashed together with sinew, and used as a projection screen. The stick structure is reminiscent of ones traditionally used for plains burial platforms, or the hide surface of the precolonial ‘winter count’ drawings, used to record annual tribal history. The delicate, sensual quality of the frame's 'soft architecture' contrasts with the rigid structures of the city, and is a recurring element in my work.

    The hide is stretched horizontally, and looped video imagery is projected downward onto the drum-like platform. An array of images of NYC are visible, including street scenes, well known landmarks and architecture, storefront signage, billboards, graffiti, etc. The imagery focuses on the word and urban iconography, especially advertisement and territorial marking. The hide can be seen as a post-modern billboard, sporting a colorful assortment of images that now advertise only their own intention and specific graphic and historical language.

    Native people see the drumbeat as the heartbeat of the earth, and the drum-like stretch of hide also refers to the life of the land that underlies even this most intensely urban environment. The strong contrast between the hide’s earthy, organic, and animal presence and the more sterile world of the concrete jungle invite consideration of the relationship between the two.

    Although the work’s title alludes to its own definite celebration of the city, it also contains elements of irony and metaphor. This ode to the Western world’s most notorious metropolis is housed in a structure that makes reference to both the Indigenous cultures of the city’s homeland, and is a symbol of mortality and death. It's a reminder of the temporal nature of even the most monumental structures and cultures. Like the winter count hides, this one tells a story of a place, a society, and a moment in time.

  • Regeneration Nation (2007)

    During my first time in NYC, I was intrigued with the small, round, spiky sweetgum tree seed-pods I often saw in streets & parks. I collected them in numbers, and later they became part of Regeneration Nation. In addition to the Indigenous Metropolis/Immigrant Wilderness series, I also consider this piece to be part of a series in progress in which a variety of objects, often seemingly dispirit in form, function and/or source, are ‘bandaged’ together with gauze fabric (see also 'Prayer Brick' on Individual Sculpture & Installation works page).

    In this case, seed-pods are bandaged against the screen of a tv. The tv screen glows with monochrome colors, cycling through red, yellow, blue & white, the four colors of the medicine wheel.

    The hard surface of the ‘technological’ screen and the hard spikes of the ‘organic’ seeds seem like surfaces that should be inherently at odds with one another - both physically and symbolically. Yet the act of binding them, and their seeming incongruity, together contains not only the symbolic act of healing, but the underlying notion that they are not as dispirit as they seem at surface, as they both ultimately come from the same source.

    Illuminated by the colorful screen, the forms of the pods are accentuated and abstracted, and they seem now as much one with the screen as they are at odds with it. With their bodies now shadows & their spikes aglow, they resemble cells or atoms, the round building blocks which epitomize both Western science & the Indigenous understanding that circularity and cycles are central to all aspects of life.

  • Highly Populated Antler & Big Apple Antler (2007)

    In Highly Populated Antler, a moose antler is suspended from the ceiling on a rope, and used as a screen for projected video. The undulating surface of the antler contains vein-troughs and other textures that look like the rivers, streams and curves of a wilderness. The antler becomes the environment for the highly-urban projected imagery of the dense crowds of New York. They move in both symphony and stark contrast across the microcosmic landscape of its surface, creating an organic/digital vignette symbolic of both colonial history and the connectedness of all things.

    In Big Apple Antler, a second version/artwork using the same antler, the same video footage used in ‘I love ny’ is now projected on the antler, creating a somewhat different symbolic dynamic. The antler is now a canvas for images of NYC architecture, signage, icons & (foot and pedestrian) traffic, and the emphasis is now on the relationship between cultural landscapes, animal and urban, Indigenous and Immigrant.

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