The forced integration of millions of natives is a truth that their descendants have come to know and deal with. My history of assimilation and my grandfathers forced boarding school experience at the Carlisle School is not unique. The feelings that have been passed down are now part of our genetic heritage. My current studio work deals with my ancestor’s many stories of assimilation. For this body of work, it was necessary to choose a new medium and material from which to begin to bridge these abstract ideas and bring them into concrete forms. To my people, honoring history is important, for necessary change does not happen intentionally unless one does so.
I take my studio projects and its research very serious as I am doing this not only for myself but for thousands of others who have a similar story to tell. In my studio process I am deliberately looking describe, enact, and translate creatively what it looks like to be from a perspective of Indigeneity. We are as a people at the cutting edge of understanding what it means now to be of an Indigenous cultural heritage. I think about these characteristics while developing my work: reclaiming history, renaming, educating, decolonizing, activating thought, recognizing perspectives from an indigenous center, and the recognition of indigenous pedagogy, and Indigenous intellect. I believe that we as Post-Colonial peoples have a responsibility to hear these ideas and move forward in creating an environment that leads toward a future that creates a foundation of respect and enduring understanding for all peoples.
This group of miniature paintings were a discovery of the self while researching inherited trauma of indigenous peoples. I was looking at artists like Shazia Sikander and beautiful Indian miniatures in museums and archives. My intent was to create a new body of work that would continue my Lace Bead Heritage watercolor and graphite drawings as well as my Mapping Landscape body of artwork where the above and below line was present. In Honoring Loss, I began by placing the ancestor image in the top center. This Ancestor image came from taking shapes from two of my large 4'x6' Lace Bead graphite drawings. Its form and presence reminded me of a powerful historical icon and I felt that it had a powerful sense of resonance and memory. The three clouds represent myself and my ancestors, Wabanaquot (translates to White Cloud), my great great Ojibwa grandfather, and Anaquot (translates to Cloud woman), my great grandmother. The third cloud represents myself and its emptiness represents the loss that indigenous people experience from generations of colonization. The small graphite lines on the horizon represent the prayers or meditations on healing during the time of creating each painting. The Above represents the present.
The lace bead paintings Below represent the past. The graphite drawings and watercolors represent the richness that is still present within the hearts and minds of indigenous people. Each Below painting is unique and no two are alike. All memories we inherit are connected but each one is rich and different. The color is significant as it comes from my years of research into Native American Indian beadwork. There is richness in the colors of beads and why they are placed together.....they represent the power and will of the people and the love they have toward the land, their language, and the balance of their lives in each day.
The calico fabric running through the center to of the painting is very important. Calico fabric was one of the first millinery goods created as a commodity to export in the United States. I have a history with this fabric with a long line of quilt making that runs through my family. The first calico mill was in Dover, New Hampshire and it's building still stands only twenty minutes from where I grew up in southern Maine. I chose this pattern for its historical significance, but I reduced it to a gray scale to remove its color, but leave its vibrant possibility for longevity. Black and white, and my intention of removing color has other meaning.......we are at heart all one people with the best intentions for survival to the next generation.
I initially made 27 Honoring Loss paintings from 2012-2013 and first displayed them at the MOCNA museum in Santa Fe in and exhibit curated by Ryan Rice called Stands With A Fist. Since this exhibition in May of 2013 I have exhibited them in many other venues over the past four years. Of the original twenty-seven paintings, the three I have offered to the Library of Congress are the remaining that have not been collected from exhibition.