off with a bang!

So here we are on the cusp of a new year.  It’s 2017’s turn to bring forth a new beginning, an opportunity for a re-do or maybe a resetting of our imaginations.  I want to give thanks for the beauty around me and to people like Cori Bearshield + her family and to the Hurleys who share moments of beauty from their lives with me.   Thank you for the goodness.

 

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Tahnee on hoverboard while Tehya gets her moccasins tied.

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Cori adjusting Tahnee’s sash belt.

The Hurleys

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The Hurleys with + without their great grandson, Batman.

Let’s do this 2017!  Happy New Year!

Indigenous People’s Day at Fort Lewis College

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I’m honored to have been invited by students and staff and Fort Lewis College to create a mural in recognition of their first celebration of Indigenous People’s Day October 10, 2016 choosing to tell history from the perspective of First Nations people.  Goodbye Columbus Day.  The effort to get the city of Durango and the college to recognize Indigenous People’s Day was the result of a long struggle for Dine’ writer, poet and artist Esther Belin, resident of Durango.  The day began with an indigenous student led demonstration in solidarity with the protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, those victimized by police brutality and a call for an end to racism.  The highlight of the day was having JC Morningstar, her family and the dog pictured in the mural travel to Durango, CO to attend the festivities.  The highlight of their day was getting down to the technotribal sounds of A Tribe Called Red later in the evening.

Dine’ poet, artist, activist Demian Dineyazhi met JC and her family and wrote a poem for the occasion titled Two Stars Rising in the North at Dusk which speaks to the family’s recent loss of JC’s 16 year old brother by suicide.

“Two Stars Rising In the North swings at dusk

One star creates her form in the glittering world

It is inherited strength from resilient ancestors

The other follows her and blesses her journey

It is the wild, steadfast spirit of fallen warriors

Together they breeze through cosmic wind

Intertwined in horse hair and kinetic genesis

Together they guide her movement:

In beauty you are reborn again

In beauty he is reborn again

In beauty she is reborn again

In beauty we are reborn again”

Shout out to Nancy Stoffer, the students at Fort Lewis, Demian Dineyazhi and my assistant Brian Gonnella for helping to make this possible.

Brooklyn Street Art write up.

climate change and bird migration

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If one were to google “…what is the impact of climate change on bird migration,” one of the first links that comes up is a page by World Migratory Bird Day 2007.    It seems this organization formed in 2007 to bring light to the issue of climate change on bird migration, had their day then dissolved.  However, they created a fact page with 5 immediate changes to migratory birds as a result of climate change.  One of the first things they identify is this…

“One of the major effects of climate change is the loss of habitats. The habitats migratory birds depend on are in danger to change and to disappear due to increasing temperatures, flooding or desertification. Coastal wetland areas that migrating birds use for nesting and foraging are an example. During their migration, birds rely on these areas to provide food and resting places. There they can refuel and repose before continuing their long journeys. Rising sea levels due to climate change cause the flooding of these habitats and they are lost for birds and other animals. Without these stop-over places, the birds have insufficient reserves to continue and have difficulties completing their journeys.”

This past winter I was invited by 516 Arts in Albuquerque to collaborate with an experimental dance troupe.  Our setting for this collaboration would be the only urban bird sanctuary in the southwest, Valle de Oro in Albuquerque.  I was invited to do an installation on the front of an old milk barn where part of a dance performance would be held.

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Upon seeing the old milk storage tank I got excited about installing there as well.  I met with the dancers twice – once in April and later in June to photograph them.  I’d wanted my focus for the piece that I created to be climate change related but I wasn’t sure in what way.  Choosing from hundreds of frames of the dancers I was struck by a series of movements performed as a duet.  For me, the three images I chose from the duet are a visual metaphor of our relationship with nature.

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In the first panel one questions whether the humans are defending themselves from the birds, shielding their eyes from the too bright sun in the intense heat to better see what’s overhead.  The relationship between humans and nature is uncertain and to some degree unsettling.

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Panel 2 suggests that with time and observation a dialog may form.  Communication may occur.

 

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And in panel 3 there’s resolution and synchronicity. Although it’s a simplistic view of our dynamic relationship with nature it suggests that through observation over time we develop a better understanding of our connection to nature and the need to preserve it by addressing the root causes of climate change.

 

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Installation
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Shout out to Brian Gonnella, my assistant from Pittsburgh, PA for 6 weeks.  He’s seen above capturing one of Albuquerque’s magical sunsets.

Painted Desert Project Summary, Artist: Demian DinéYazhi

From September 6th – 9th, 2016 I was invited out to the Painted Desert Project by Chip Thomas (Jetsonorama) to engage with students at the Shonto Preparatory School on the Navajo Nation. Prior to my time with the Painted Desert Project, Chip and myself discussed making artwork with the immediate community that would result in a wheatpaste and text-based mural. My target community was an Indigenous LGBTQ2S and/or intergenerational group whom I could workshop and collaborate alongside before leading up to the production of artwork for a proper mural. Eventually, we agreed on connecting with a local school over the course of a week to establish a group of youth to work with on a longer engagement slated for the spring of 2017.

As established by Chip, my main point of contact at Shonto Prep was the Jane of all trades, Orleta Slick, whom set up prior arrangements with the interim art teacher, Nicole Laughter. My first day in the classroom was spent introducing the kids ( 5th grade to 8th grade) to my artwork and the themes explored through the imagery. For instance, I began speaking to the kids about Indigenous identity and the importance of self-representation. By showing them images that appropriated photographs taken from a non-Native photographer that simultaneously address Indigenous Feminism, I asked the students to look up definitions of patriarchy, matriarchy, appropriation, and subversion.

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Introducing the kids to these themes was no easy task, I realized the concepts I was bringing to the classroom was likely the first time the kids had been introduced to these words and definitions. Ultimately, I was able to link it back to reservation issues that are often seen in Navajo communities and referenced historical events, like the Long Walk, as a way to create context for the students. It was inspiring to see the kids thumb through their dictionary after being prompted to look up some of these words in their dictionaries, but also to see the children make connections between Hopi maidens and Princess Leia without being asked to consider the potential connection and appropriation of Indigenous Hopi culture.

In spite of the challenge of trying to demystify complex concepts to a group of students whom likely hadn’t grasped the social hierarchies embedded into the fabric of Indigenous and contemporary society, I felt my first day with the students was a success. After introducing my work and projects I am a part of, I took a moment and introduced the kids to the main reason why I was in their classroom: to create a mural that was a reflection of their community. Some of the students were familiar with the Painted Desert Project, so I asked them to consider how these images and murals made them feel the next time they came across them in passing. For instance, “do these images make you feel a sense of pride in who you are as Diné people?

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The next day I started the students off with a 5-minute “free write”. After giving the students a prompt—such as, “write about one of your favorite memories or dreams”, “what do yourself doing when you’re 18”, or “write about whatever inspires you most in life”—I told the students that they did not need to share this with the class and that whatever they wrote they were free to do with as they saw fit. I wanted the kids to walk away from the exercise with two things: 1) to spend time with their thoughts and using their hands as a tool of expression; 2) to feel secure knowing that whatever they wrote wasn’t for an adult or for a participation grade, but that writing could serve various purposes outside of conventional school assignments.

After the writing assignment I spoke briefly again about the Painted Desert Project and whether the students wanted to do a group collage together or create monoprints in the classroom on the last day of my residency. The curiosity of the kids all gravitated toward monoprinting. After that was decided, Nicole Laughter and myself accompanied the students outside for a drawing assignment focused on drawing the surroundings of Shonto Prep. Some kids drew large trees that tower over anthills, the water tower off in the distance, stink bugs that slowly walked by, or imagined entirely different landscapes. This was a short exercise, but it afforded the students the opportunity to engage with the world and consider drawing from real life.

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My last day at Shonto Prep started off with a 5-minute “free write”, and was followed by an interactive monoprint workshop with each class. I showed the students some examples of the different types of screenprinting and letterpress (text-based) printing that I have worked on over the last few years. Initially I had anticipated a group project, but the students all gravitated toward individual text, which ended up being really effective because it challenged the students by having them consider how the image gets printed—in reverse. Some students printed their names, characters from popular app games (i.e. Minecraft), school sport team logos, hearts with “MOM” written above them, or the name of their schoolyard crushes.

What interested me the most about this project was the amount the students opened up in such a confined space. They were challenged to work together on a limited surface and while some people were compelled to work on images and prints, other students were more drawn to focus on spreading ink or applying pressure to get a good print. This fascinated me because it was a true example of the benefits of working together and respecting the labor involved with each process. Another thing that I didn’t consider is that not all the students felt inspired to be creative in the exact same way, because for others, physical labor is as valid of a form of creative expression and holds as much purpose as creating a piece of art.

Upon my departure from Shonto Prep, I felt that the workshops and class exercises were successful in exposing students to alternative ways of thinking about creative practice. Another goal was to create a relationship with students and a community that could be nurtured through the coming months. While my time at Shonto was limited, it was important for me to create a prolonged engagement with the community in order to familiarize myself with the landscape and the community that takes care of it and survives in the comforts of what it has to offer.

I also wanted to get a sense of what I felt would be a meaningful interaction and reflection of the community. It became evident that the best representation of this community would come through the form of a photography collage project that asks the students to photograph their families, landscapes, animals, or things that make them proud, and then take those photographs and create a mural that will be displayed outside the front of their school building.

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Dan Budnik is a Flagstaff based photographer who first came to this region in the 70s to photodocument forced relocation of Navajos living on “Hopi Partition Land” on Black Mesa.  It was his documentation of the conflict that led to the 1985 Academy Award winning documentary “Broken Rainbow” which examines coal exploitation and the origins of the Navajo – Hopi tribal government conflict.  His images from that period are compelling.  It’s the type of up close + personal, black + white photography that I grew up seeing in Life Magazine.  The imagery reflects Dan’s time commitment to telling a story truthfully and the trust the people he was photographing had in him.

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Stinkfish poster with MLK criminal justice reform posters.

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Collaboration with fellow Justseeds printmaker + activist, Thea Ghar.

I first met Dan maybe 3 years ago; however, it wasn’t until he had a show of black + white, silver gelatin prints and color photos at a small restaurant in Flagstaff in May of 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery that Dan got my attention.  I wanted to know what a photographer of his caliber was doing in northern Arizona.  He told the story of going to the Navajo nation in the 70s and falling in love with the people and the land.  I stopped him at this point and told him he didn’t need to elaborate.  I got it.  The show was worthy of being held in any gallery in any city in the world.  I’m not exaggerating.  Though Dan is a humble, gentle spirit, his talent as a photographer is exceptional.  It was his image of  Dr. King that appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in April 1968 when Dr. King was killed.

King by Dan Budnik

I’m proud as hell to be able to say Dan Budnik is my friend.  Last year we’d hoped to collaborate on a project in Selma where I’d install some of his images from the Selma to Montgomery march on abandoned store-fronts in downtown Selma.  However, the bureaucracy to realize this dream was insurmountable.  Instead, Dan let me use an image of marcher Frederick Moss for an installation in Brooklyn.  (Yeah, Brooklyn.  I like the unintentional symbolism of a black man on his back in the street holding an American flag. This time last year there were several black men on their backs in the street.)  When Dan shot the image of Frederick Moss, Mr. Moss was simply exhausted after a grueling 5 day, 54 mile demonstration and laid down in a vacant spot to rest.

I wanted to pay tribute to my friend by getting the Frederick Moss image up in his adopted home of Flagstaff, AZ.

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Toren at Moenkopi Wash

Hózhó – a word that defines the essence of Navajo (Diné) philosophy. It encompasses beauty, order, harmony + expresses the idea of striving for balance.

telluride mountain film festival

photo by jim hurst

I was honored to be one of 2 artists in residence for the 2016 Telluride Mountain Film Festival. As stated on Wikipedia “…Held every Memorial Day weekend since 1979, Telluride Mountainfilm is a documentary film festival that showcases nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political and social justice issues in Telluride, Colorado. In addition to documentaries, the festival also brings together world-class athletes, change makers and artists via interactive discussions, free community events, a gallery walk, an all-day symposium, outdoor programming and presentations. Mountainfilm aims to educate, inspire and motivate audiences.”

Huffington Post article about my contribution.

up highway 64 towards the entrance of the south rim (at thomasina’s stand)

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It had been a  couple years since I last spent any time with Marley and her mom, Sina in their spot near the Little Colorado River Gorge.  I had a leftover screen print that was one of the posters used to promote the 2014 People’s Climate March (printed by Justseeds artist, Jesse Purcell).  Although Sina wasn’t there, Marley was there with a full crew.  Thanks for a fun hang!

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