root series


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  • Gratitude Code Root Mural

    The vibrant red of the roots is visually arresting, emotionally evocative and culturally symbolic. In red, the roots look strikingly similar to mammalian veins, emphasizing the awareness of organic and spiritual connection between all living things that underscores North American Indigenous thought. Red is also the color that commonly represents the east on the Medicine Wheel. In this fundamental component of Native American spiritual teachings, the east is associated with inspiration and growth.

    As sensuous artifacts of the trees’ subterranian quest for sustenance, the roots become an allegory for the power of the subconscious mind, and potential for personal, communal and universal growth. The series also contains the very literal reference of connection to one’s roots, a vital subject in the post/colonial/modern environment of the Americas. There’s a well known Native American saying that you can’t know who you are or where you are going until you know where you come from.

    The surfaces of the mural’s roots are covered in variations of the word Gratitude, a state of mind fundamental to creative manifestation. Gratitude is central to both Cree traditional teachings and the equally ancient yet re-emerging Law of Attraction concepts, as well as other cultural/spiritual disciplines.

    The word is handwritten repeatedly in binary code, Plains Cree language syllabics, and English. Following the roots’ sinuous landscape, the repeated word becomes an interactive, chant-like affirmation of multicultural, multi-dimensional appreciation and evolution.

    I often use language in my work, with layered intention. The words can be taken literally, and/or there may be a wordplay or double entendre. When more than one language is used, they become an expression of distinct cultural paradigms - often co-existing in the same piece. Repeated/rhythmic words become an agent for entering the realms of ritual, trance and cure. And especially in the case of Indigenous language, it is an expression of the land itself.

    The hand-rendered binary code playfully points to the fundamental relationship between nature and technology (another recurring focus) and a long history of American Indian incorporation of and ‘takes’ on Western technologies. Handwriting the code creates a ‘reverse appropriation’ of the digital realm, transforming and adopting it into a spiritually directed process, with a very organic and ‘tribal’ look.

    Indigenous ways of life are timelessly and inherently ‘green’. My collaboration with the fantastic serpentine forms of the roots bespeaks a personal and cultural reverence between the people and the land, and the fundamental nature of this relationship, particularly in the face of global warming.

  • root series

    This series uproots and repositions the wonderful, drawing-like shapes of gathered and stripped roots so that they protrude individually or in multiples from walls or sprout upside down like strange trees. Through contemporary art devices and cultural references, the roots become a bridge between two cultures. Like the Affirm/nation and antler series, this series employs both an emphasis on sculptural forms found in nature and the use of repeated words.

    The roots of small trees are gathered and meticulously peeled. This act of gathering roots is an ancient and fundamental activity for Indigenous people, particularly for women & medicine people. In this case, the ‘medicine’ of the root enters the body through the eyes.

    The mounting & coloring accentuates both the roots visual and symbolic appeal. Seen ‘framed’ in this manner, the sensuality, refinement, movement and strange drawing-like grace the roots form & movement can stand alone as a strongly expressive abstract work. Seen free-standing, there is a like-a-tree-yet-not quality to the roots that is both lovely and odd.

    And of course roots are metaphorically saturated, especially in terms of North American colonial history, both tribal and immigrant. The upside down root is particularly pointed & poignant. This narrative quality is pushed further through their adornment in repeated, hand-written statements and/or affirmations. Similar to the antler series, these words follow the natural twists & contours of the root, collaborating their ‘environment’. In some of these pieces, well know quotes from masters of Western literature are used to draw connections to/with traditional Native teachings. The true root, for example, sports a Shakespearian line – ‘to thine own self be true’ which mirrors Native Elders’ teaching to always follow your heart.

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