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 ...


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, 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?


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?