Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Assimilation Shelter in Sweatlodge"


Acrylic, Pen & Ink, Sharpie, String, Tracing and Palette Paper Mix Media

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"Assimilation Shelter in Sweatlodge" is a mixed-media composition I completed in two weeks during my staffing of the Oscar Howe Native American Summer Art Institute (OHSAI) at the University of South Dakota. During the visiting artists of Bunky Echo-Hawk and Roger Broer, I was inspired by the gallery of Northern Plains Indian Art Market collections the Fine Arts department owned during OHSAI. I had never done mixed media in this fashion, nor had I taken a painting seriously. This was the result of ultimate experimentation outside of my comfort zones.

I leaned into the works of abstract by my mark making. Using the teeth on a buffalo jaw, I covered the teeth in paint and dabbed the canvas, which created a very unique and decomposing-looking texture. Aside form painting, I used adhesive spray to directly place my drawing of the sundancers on tracing paper directly onto the canvas. The sundancers being my startingpoint, I expanded outward in the composition from there, like an atomic bomb.

The piece has unlimited symbolism, but will review the major points here. Below is a link of a close-up photo of my pen&ink work alone of the sundancers.
The Sundance, akoka'tssini, is one of the most sacred and most honorable spiritual practices that can be done in our traditional culture. It is the iconic ceremony that makes us Indigenous people, completely non-western ceremonies that we've done annually every summer for centuries and generations.
THis piece is about the decomposition of it, of the people who should be involved. I incooperated materialistic objects and things related to society that tempt us, but we choose to let overcome who we are freely, based on our own decision-making rather than some adversary thats holding us back. Things that cloud our mind from who it is we are as Native people, and recognizing the fact that it is what we do that makes us Native, not what we happen to be in bloodlines.
The strings off the sundancer connect to a dead tree, to symbolize decomposition of ceremony. Much fighting goes on about who is doing what wrong and it seems everyone individually knows "the right way", nevermind those who do not even attend or recognize the Sundance as a primary event in their life. Hanging from the tree are alcoholic containers and cut braids, to show how many people are no longer connected to the tree, but the reasons they are not there. Addictions, issues, and loss of cultural fundamentalism all relate to why we are not involving or attending ourselves to not just sundance but all red road commitments and ceremonies. A lone cross rooted into the ground showing the dominance of Christianity and other western-origin beliefs that many of my people have turned to.
Traditional symbolism is related to my color choices. Black and white was and is considered an evil color-palette of evil spirit beings that visited and tempted us so long ago. My view is that since we as people have changed, so have they. This belief resulting in my design of traditional evil colors and markings on beer bottles; the direct temptations that destroy us from within.

I combined it all with a Fallout Shelter sign used in the 50's and 60's during the Nuclear-era. As a means to direct people to a safe haven and protection from harm. I'm thinking about doing a series of these with that similar topic. C.D. (Civil Defense) put them out, and figured it'd be fun to twist it to C.D. (Culture Defense). Overall, this piece I believe is the start of a new direction.