Thursday, March 5, 2015

- Oklahoma impression: First in a series of tile assemblages

Don is working on a series of tile pieces, which began with a first attempt at "painting outside the lines" shown at the end of the February 7th post and ultimately resulted in this assemblage ...

Spiritless?

It's been a longer-than-usual journey, resulting from much discussion between the two of us, although in the end it is truly Don's piece, his vision. 

Here's a picture of the assemblage taken mid-way through the process which shows the rusted hoe and hinge that he bound together to form a "body," the strips torn from cotton-linen cloth used in my first bleach discharge experiment (seen here as a setting sun in one of the lullaby books) ... a bit of plywood painted with primary colors inspired by Robert Rivera ... a small feather "earring" on the side of the "face" (held on by a screw which remains there in spite of my initial, unspoken hope that it might be removed) ... and a string of beads he culled from button boxes and antique store finds, then threaded onto copper wire ...


A similar hoe with fork and blade
G's growth chart, made from the
same plywood as the blue sky panel

"What triggered this?" I asked at one point.

Don said our drive through Oklahoma last October was at the heart of it. From the western end of I-44 at the Texas border to the eastern end where I-44 enters Missouri, he was deeply affected by the signs for the Indian Nations, one after another. No longer reservations, but still, not land chosen by the Native Americans who live there. Land chosen instead by a government that had its view of landownership rooted in the English system of metes and bounds ... land largely defined by latitudes and longitudes, although the rivers sometimes had their way, as the Red River does between Oklahoma and Texas.

As I watched the assemblage develop, I saw more and more symbols of the bounds imposed on Native Americans by a Euro-centric culture and began to think how titling the assemblage might reflect that ...

               

So, on the day Don declared the assemblage done, I asked him what he was going to name it. And then, when he said "Spiritless" I promptly tried to talk him out of it. Which is typical for me because I always look to dictionary definitions and if you look at the meaning of spiritless in m-w.com, it sounds like the antithesis of Native American spirituality.

But then I reconsidered ... how would I feel if I were forcibly moved off of my land? How drained of spirit? How bound by someone else's definition of what was to be my home?

Wouldn't I too be empty?

Spiritless?

Postscript: After writing this post, I asked Don to read it over and add something if he wanted to. Here's what he had to say ... 
The truth of the matter is that I feel rather odd commenting on something I've done that is a step away from my comfort level of folk art fish assemblages. Liz is correct, this piece was inspired by our travels across Oklahoma, yet I do not want to convey that Native Americans are without spirit. Hardly. The spiritless symbolism such as the missing face is rather straightforward, but the piece also speaks to me about strength and possibilities ... the strength of the metal itself, the movement from the darker center to the sunlight in the corner, the river of life running through the middle. Of course, most of this is unintentional ... I think?

9 comments:

Mo Crow said...

oh my how I love the connections with you two... I was born in Tulsa, there was a powerful sense of spirit in the land and the Native American people I met there back in the late 50's early 60's

Liz Ackert said...

The connections are amazing ... one of many reasons I love when you come to visit.

We almost always stay in Tulsa when we are driving to and from St. Louis (at least three times a year). We discovered early on that most restaurants there are closed on Sundays. When we drive through Oklahoma, I almost always slip in the Cody Canada CD "This is Indian Land"

What we need to do is build more time into our travels to make stops at places like the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center http://chickasawculturalcenter.com/ ... our travels last fall really sparked a desire to learn a lot more about Native American arts and spirituality in particular.

The New Mexico and Oklahoma assemblages were constructed along with a fair amount of soul searching about whether we were in any way inadvertently dishonoring someone's belief systems ... hence we took care not to appropriate terms like kachina/katsina or name specific nations as influences, but still we're coming at this from an decidedly Anglo perspective.

Don did comment yesterday as he read over my post that I sounded a bit anti-government. My response was, "You think?" Ha! The proudest moment in my professional life was when the FBI labeled librarians as "radical militants" for opposing the Patriot Act on the grounds that it unduly trespassed on individual privacy http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/national/nationalspecial3/11patriot.html?_r=0

Phew ... long response. I guess I left some things unsaid when I posted yesterday and you opened the floodgates.

Mo Crow said...

my dad would sing "Meet me in St Louis" on the drive to Quebec to visit grandma...

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

Don and Liz...i very much love this being and also have strong feelings about Appropriating. It's
complex, that whole thing. But i DO feel that this being here is a halfbreed of spirit....and
to me is not at all spiritless, but rather a kind of ghost being. I will need to keep looking to
really understand what it is i see/feel. But to say, that if you ever decide to sell it, i would like
first dibs.

Don Ackert said...

Grace, Thanks for your comments. Liz and I so enjoy your work, thoughts, ideas and perspectives on life. This piece was made for Liz. However, one day if I'm able to find similar components I'll put a piece together for you. That would make us feel GOOD!

Liz Ackert said...

It would indeed ...

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

hi Don, i like how you've attempted a comment on your own piece, never easy (or at least for me it isn't) as one has made a visual object i.e.WithoutWords and then some one goes and asks you'hey, What's it About? 'inside i'm often like Duh, if i knew that i would probably have written a short story and not bothered making the otherwise inexpressible whatever to begin with..............ah, i'm sorry, am i going on just a bit too long.....of course it's unintentional on a conscious level, and only when asked (by self or others) does one think about what one has done

what i see immediately is an infant swaddled in cloth with unruly hair, and in doing that project soul/spirit, just a view

Don Ackert said...

Saskia, thanks for your comments. Truth be told the only reason I commented on this piece in the first place was Liz MADE me do it! Ha! But in hindsight it made me look closer at symbolism (intended or not) so I have to give her some kudos for that. Always interested in seeing the wonderful work you do.

Liz Ackert said...

Saskia

I saw the swaddling connection, too ... which was part of why I asked Don to comment on the piece since I knew I was seeing some things differently from his original vision. I guess that's true of most any artwork ... we bring our own unique set of experiences to the process of interpreting what we are reading, hearing, or seeing.