Category: community

water is life

 

 

 

 

 

Last month I received a letter from Maria Singleton, a woman I met in November in Nogales at a demonstration organized by School of Americas Watch.  She identified herself as a member of a humanitarian aid organization based in Ajo, AZ near the U.S., Mexico border.

She wrote “…This last year has been rough for humanitarian aid workers in Ajo with the arrest of Scott Warren and 8 No More Deaths volunteers charged with misdemeanors and fined for leaving water for migrants out on the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge.  In order to get a permit to enter the wildlife refuge they are requiring people to sign a form that says they will not leave water, socks or first aid items out.  These are the exact items that we leave out for the migrants that are passing through this incredibly dangerous part of the desert.  This policy started last August and resulted in the charges that our friends with No More Deaths are now facing. “

Maria pointed out that she and her partner own property directly across from the entrance to Cabeza Prieta which abuts the Mexican border.  This region has the highest migrant death rate due to the brutality of the desert crossing.  Maria offered the walls of their building which is ironically known as “the ice house” as it was the place where ice was stored for the town of Ajo (during its copper mining boom years from the early 1900s through the 1960s).  She also noted that there will be a faith based action of civil disobedience August 3 – 6 which will be staged in Cabeza Prieta.

As stated by the Faith Floods the Desert organizers “Our purpose in this action is three-fold. First, to call attention to the escalating injustice of US policies toward migrants in order to inspire others to raise their voices. Second, to act in solidarity with the volunteers facing criminal charges for living out their religious mandate to welcome and care for the stranger. And third, to raise the call of our faith traditions as an act of resistance against the cruelty and violence that dominate US policy and actions.”

Joined by a small crew of filmmakers and assistants I journeyed to Ajo to begin to understand what’s happening there and to install the message “water is life.”  We were welcomed warmly by the Ajo activist community to whom I’d like to recognize for their expressions of shared humanity and for their bravery.  Shout out to the world’s finest crew as well – Justin Clifton, Drew Ludwig, Stash Wislocki and Jerrel Singer.

For more information on the impact of this administration’s border policy on humanitarian aid workers

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/24/us-immigration-activists-arizona-no-more-deaths-charged

Examples of border patrol activity disrupting humanitarian aid efforts:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqaslbj5Th8

More information on the upcoming Faith Floods the Desert action:

https://uucsj.org/join-us-to-flood-the-desert/ 

Brooklyn Street Art post:  http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/2018/07/28/destroying-desert-water-bottles-chip-thomas-new-work-in-ajo-arizona/

School of the Americas Watch Border Encuentro (November 10 – 12)

This past weekend was spent at the SOAW Border Encuentro in Tucson, AZ and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.  The U.S. Army School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is located at Fort Benning, Georgia.  As stated on Wikipedia “The School of the Americas was founded in 1946 and from 1961 was assigned the specific goal of teaching “anti-communist counterinsurgency training,” a role which it would fulfill for the rest of the Cold War.[3] In this period, it educated several Latin American dictators, generations of their military and, during the 1980s, included the uses of torture in its curriculum.[4][5]In 2000/2001, the institute was renamed to WHINSEC.[6][7]:233 [8]”

“During the Cold War Colombia supplied the largest number of students from any client country.[7]:17 As the Cold War drew to a close around 1990, United States foreign policy shifted focus from “anti-communism” to the War on Drugs, with narcoguerillas replacing “communists”.[7]:10

“School of the Americas Watch is an advocacy organization founded by former Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois and a small group of supporters in 1990 to protest the training of mainly Latin American military officers, by the United States Department of Defense, at the School of the Americas (SOA). Most notably, SOA Watch conducts a vigil each November at the site of the academy, located on the grounds of Fort Benning, a U.S. Army military base near Columbus, Georgia, in protest over human rights abuses committed by some graduates of the academy or under their leadership, including murdersrapes and torture and contraventions of the Geneva Conventions.[1]”

Since 2016 School of the Americas Watch moved their vigil from Fort Benning, GA to the border wall in Nogales to protest the militarization of  the border.  As taken from the SOAW website “…SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement working to close the SOA / WHINSEC and similar centers that train state actors such as military, law enforcement and border patrol. We strive to expose, denounce, and end US militarization, oppressive US policies and other forms of state violence in the Americas.  We act in solidarity with organizations and movements working for justice and peace throughout the Americas.”

Proceedings began in Tucson with a block printing workshop by fellow Justseeds member Thea Gahr.

My collaborators in creating the image used for the backdrop, Raechel Running and Thea Gahr. (The above 3 photos are by Saiyare Refaei.)

That evening there was a vigil at Eloy Detention Center outside Tucson. Opened in 1994 Eloy Detention Center is a private prison contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement where immigrants from surrounding cities are detained sometimes for years.  The center houses both men and women.  An investigation by The Arizona Republic in 2016 found the center to have the highest number of deaths in the U.S.  There have been 15 deaths since 2003 including 5 suicides.  One of the more moving aspects of the vigil was seeing silhouettes of detainees in windows who communicated with demonstrators by turning lights on + off in their cells and by banging on windows.  We learned that the price the detainees pay for this communication is a restriction of their privileges such as visitations with family and legal representation.

 

 

The time in Nogales included workshops, speeches, music and art.  One of the more moving moments included the arrival and participation of a group of activists from Oaxaca who traveled 3 days to participate.  Their journey included stopping along the way to meet with and lend solidarity to other immigration grass roots groups.

(The 2 photos above are by Saiyare Refaei.)

Screen printed posters were made at the event and were given away for free.   We also printed on t shirts and other pieces of clothing provided by participants.

 

Thea getting assistance from across the border.

 

Sweet sage smudge blessing through the border wall with crosses along the bottom of the wall bearing the names of migrants who died over the past year while crossing the Sonoran Desert or in detention.

Crosses with a name of the deceased are raised as people say “presente!” upon hearing the names of those who have perished trying to cross the Sonoran Desert in pursuit of their dreams. An image of hope saying “tear down the walls; build up the people” is in the background.

SOAW demands:

  • An end to US economic, military and political intervention in Latin America
  • Demilitarization and divestment of the borders
  • An end to the racist systems of oppression that criminalize and kill migrants, refugees and communities of color
  • Respect, dignity, justice and the right to self-determination of communities
  • An end to Plan Mérida and the Alliance for Prosperity

End of the encuentro but the struggle continues…

full circle

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2011

eu amo o brasil!

big shout out to raul zito, photographer and wheat paste artist in sao paulo, brasil.  i’ve been following his work on various street art blogs and learned through flickr he’s been following mine as well.  here’s an example of his work in sao paulo.

 

he and i got in touch with one another late 2010 and he offered to get a piece of mine up in sao paulo.  the piece isn’t finished yet but here’s what he’s done so far.  i absolutely love it.  he put me beside magrela mag who did the piece on the second apartment in the first photo (up top).  sweet!  i love the way jamaal is flying into the mama bird’s mouth, through the basketball hoop while the beautiful, nude woman checks it all out.  wicked piece!

stay tuned.  he’ll be getting files of his to me soon to paste here.  how cool is that?!

 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2011

rain dance…

it never fails.  whenever i do a big installation, it rains.  such was the case last week and this weekend in phoenix.  so after a week, stephanie’s photo on the billboard, the collab with breeze, is already starting to come down.  one week later.  that hurts.  steve, julia’s husband and partner in managing the hive, said he’d try to paste her back up.  i left some wheat paste with him that had started to turn sour.  yum.

meanwhile, i met niba yesterday.  he’s a photographer who is based in tucson, i think.  it was one of those moments when virtual reality becomes real and you meet someone from your social networking sites.  in truth, i thought niba, also known as “dead now” on twitter was a woman.  o well.  instead, he’s a great guy with 2 beautiful children.  here are some of his images from yesterday’s installation.  thanks niba!

i mentioned above that raul zito of sao paulo pasted one of my pieces in sao paulo.  i returned the favor + pasted one of his images in phoenix.  what comes around…

shout out to the british two tone movement

with miguel

 

kicking it with breeze + erin gramzinski

 

July 9, 2017

I don’t often read posts from back in the day when I started pasting especially posts found on my Blogspot site. (I miss that url – http://www.speakingloudandsayingnothing.blogspot.com, aka “yo mama.”) It’s fun seeing my enthusiasm for everything about the art form.  In this case it’s especially exciting to read through these posts from early 2011 to reflect on how long I’ve been aware of Zito’s work and to remember that dreams can come true.  He’ll be coming to the rez in just under a month.  Full circle.  Yay!

 

 

Ruben Aguirre + Twyla Hunt’s food truck

On a hot day on the Colorado Plateau in early June Chicago based writer + street artist “Looks_1” (Ruben Aguirre) met with Twyla Hunt to paint her food truck.  Ruben, Twyla’s mom, Mary + Twyla discussed what he might paint while Twyla’s son swam in the sprinkler…

 

Kate Deciccio at Navajo Mountain

 

florence with her portrait of she + gloria

 

hosteen buck navajo with his portrait

 

portraits of florence + bahe ketchum

 

Washington, DC based artist, community organizer + activist Kate Deciccio recently completed a 2 week project with the Navajo Mountain Chapter House. Here’s what she said about her experience…

I arrived to Navajo Mountain, Naatsis’aan and met with Lorena Atene, Community Services Coordinator & Hank Stevens, Chapter President to talk about their vision for the project. “What is the purpose of the art? What stories are we trying to tell through this project?” I asked. Lorena & Hank shared several main objectives.
We want to engage our youth in something creative where they explore the mythology of the mountain & also have a chance to be expressive.
We want to honor the importance of the struggle to protect Bear Ears Monument for its significance as a place where healers collect medicine, hold ceremonies & hunt.
We want art for the Stronger & Healthier Navajo Nation & Eehaniih Celebrations in July & August. Specifically Eehaniih honors the people who were able to avoid internment by hiding in the canyons behind the mountain, our veterans, our elders & people who have left & returned to our community.

The next morning Lorena & I were off make house visits to elders who she & Hank felt embodied the spirit of Eehaniih. We knocked on Grandpa Buck Navajo’s hogan & he & his daughter invited us in for a visit filled with stories about his 84 years of healing. Grandpa Buck is animated but his speech is quiet & I don’t know Navajo. Thankfully his daughter Lena & Lorena were there to translate.
“I began studying ceremonies when I was 10. I’m 94 now, the oldest medicine man here, and when I was 18, people from this community began going to fight WWII,” Buck shared. He went on to talk about all that he’s seen and the responsibility of the medicine man to care for the community during, WWII, the Korean War, land partition, livestock reduction, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm & today. He was light & warm & pointed to boxes of fresh Navajo tea and the tobacco he was chopping on the floor. While talking about ceremonies that took him years to learn, the use of singing & baskets, he also made jokes & shared the Spanish words he learned from his Mexican co-workers when he worked on the railroad, “Nada Mamacita!”

I would have been happy staying all day listening to Grandpa’s Buck’s stories but I took his photograph and Lorena & I headed to meet Gloria & Florence. Gloria grew up in Navajo Mountain and left with her husband to live in Chicago for 44 years. She lives down the hill from Florence who has spent her entire life caring for herds of sheep and goats who graze in the giant open pastures between their houses tucked behind the mountain. Gloria was eager to sit down, drink pink lemonade & reminisce about her days riding horses & how she met her husband. I was curious to learn more about the corner of her living room dedicated to Elvis but she wanted to share about how her son married an Indian girl who she loves but that she always tell him, “You married the wrong kind of indian.”
Meanwhile Florence kept peeking her head out the door, looking up the hill, noting that it was hot & that the sheep & goats were in the coral. Despite that Florence who have been just fine avoiding photos all together, I followed Gloria’s lead & photographed them together both inside & in front of the hogan.

Lastly we reached out to the family of Bahe Ketchum, one of the Navajo Code Talkers who was from Navajo Mountain & died just a few years ago. His son Arthur shared photos and new articles about his dad’s experience in WWII.

For the next few days I split my time between rendering the portraits to make stencils of the elders & painting a mural in the meeting house that features the native plants used most often in Navajo plant medicine.Thanks to Nizhóní, I had great help and input making it possible to finish the wall in just 4 days.

The following week I met the 7 student workers assigned to the art project. Lorena was like, “If you can please paint, 8 palettes for the park, 6 picnic tables that match, 2 5×12′ canvases & if you finish…. I have a list of other spots where we’d love art.” No big deal.
The youth were like, “We’re not sure what to expect but if we can spray paint, we’re on board!”
We looked at some Navajo textiles & pottery designs, talked about pattern structures & symmetry & began painting. By the end of day 1, the kids had painted all 8 palettes with beautiful layered patterns and were each beginning to experiment with fading and color transitions. As the week unfolded, we researched the connections between the land features & Navajo deities. The students talked to their parents & grandparents about the stories they had learned about the land and we quickly realized that depending on each clan, the significance of each place really varied. Some people thought Rainbow Bridge was very sacred, other people said, “That place doesn’t mean much to us, I’ve walked under there.” Some people believed the Twins, the children of the Sun resided in the mountain, other people believed they lived in a mountain near Window Rock. Here I was attempting to support the kids to discover “The Story,” but we learned together that actually there were many stories & a diversity of connection & offense to each perspective. The students collectively agreed that to them, being from Navajo Mountain means feeling deeply connected to the beauty and vastness of the land. They shared about how grateful they feel for living in a place where there is very little commercial development & we made big lists of all of the animals & plants that to them capture the essence of their community. Together we worked out a mural composition integrating patterns from rugs, petroglyphs, animals, & text about how the land makes the kids feel.

Each day we talked about the strengths and struggles of Navajo Mountain to support youth. The kids agreed that small town drama and feelings of boredom & isolation drive alcoholism & depression for many people in the community, that lack of access to healthy food and opportunity has big implications on people’s ability to believe they can do what they want with their lives. They helped cut out the large stencils of Grandpa Buck, Gloria, Florence & Bahe and we talked about what they hope to accomplish in the community as they become leaders.
By the end of the week I found myself inventing small jobs so they could work independently and experiment developing their individual styles. They paint the chapter’s backhoe, cold planer, electric meters, a bunch of picnic tables, and definitely a few things without permission.

Spending 12 days painting at the Navajo Mountain chapter house was an opportunity to be with people and attempt to create art that reflects back all that the community shared with me about who they are and how they see themselves. Wrapping up last night, we agreed that in our time together, we were exceptionally productive but that also projects like this unveil how much more could be possible….. What could happen if we committed to using art to explore community stories all year long? How could we support the students to learn the skills to resist depression and alcoholism by engaging in art? I feel good about leaving this project with new questions and inspiration. Huge thanks to The Painted Desert Project for getting the art & dialogue started.

 

Thank you Kate for your passion, dedication + amazing work!

Live + Direct from Penland School of Crafts

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina is one of the country’s oldest and most respected schools of craft.  Opened in 1929 by Lucy Morgan who focused her initial instruction on weaving in order to help local women build cottage industries to help support their families.  As noted on Wikipedia “…The school now offers Spring, Summer, and Fall workshops in craft disciplines, including weaving and dyeing, bead work, glassblowing, pottery, paper making, metalworking, and woodworking. It also offers fine arts subjects, such as printmaking, painting, and photography.[2][4] Workshops are taught by visiting American and international artists and professors.”

Having known of Penland since 1970 when I first visited while attending a nearby alternative, Quaker school (the Arthur Morgan School), we went there twice during my middle school years for folk and contra dancing.  It was at Penland that I learned to clog in 1971 so I was honored and thrilled when I was asked to return this spring for a 1 and a half week long residency.

My time at Penland was like an episode of Project Runway in that I had 9 days to arrive, acquaint myself with the community, photograph something or someone that represented the gestalt of the educational center, get this work printed, prepped and pasted.  It didn’t help that my first 3 days there coincided with a stomach flu presenting as explosive diarrhea, fatigue and fever.  I soldiered on.  Arriving late Sunday night I spent the first day on the down low meeting students and staff in various studios.  I started photographing on Tuesday knowing that in order to get the work printed, prepped and pasted I’d have to get the files to a printer by the following day.  After deciding upon an image to paste, I drove to a printer and hour away in Asheville.  Despite having been assured by the printing company that they could complete the job by Friday I was told when I arrived that the job required too much of their black ink and they wouldn’t be able to do it.

Hearing the voice of Project Runway mentor and spirit guide Tim Gunn I had to figure out a way to make it work.  I called the printing company in Tucson, AZ I’ve been using for the past 2 years and told them my situation.  I was assured that if I could upload the files to them by noon their time Wednesday (the day I was calling them), they’d be able to get them back to me by Friday.  I sat the office of the print company in Asheville that bailed on the job to use their wifi and uploaded the files to Reproductions, Inc.  (Let me take a moment to give this company a shout out.  They’re a small, non-corporate, employee-owned print shop with personable service who charge me 12 cents per square foot for large format, black and white, toner based prints as compared to 80 cents per square foot at companies like FedEx Office.  I love them.)

I informed the program director of my situation.  Unbeknownst to me she called Reproductions, Inc and asked them to express ship the order such that I’d receive it the following day (which i did.  I point this out only to express the irony that FedEx was able to get this order across country in a day when I’ve often ordered shipments from Reproductions, Inc the next day only to have it arrive 2 days later and I’m in the same state.)  Regardless, I got the work and the count down was on.  Because my glue doesn’t dry properly below 50 degrees and it snowed the day I placed the order, I waited until Sunday to begin pasting knowing full well I had to represent since I was in my home state.

The site I selected for the installation was a 1950s era, cottage with asbestos shingles used to store gardening equipment.  It’s called Green Acres.  And why did I chose Green Acres?  Because Green Acres is the place to be.  Farm living is the life for me.  That, and it has great visibility.  The images chosen was clay pieces waiting to be fired over 8 days in a wood kiln.  Thus, the title for the installation is “Clay Pieces Pretending to be Contestants on The Apprentice (i.e., pots waiting to be fired.)”

Green Acres

Dawn

Sunrise

Textiles student + hardcore, ready to go the distance assistant, Krysten Watson (You rule.)

Adam + Onay adding stoking the kiln to fire the pieces pretending to be contestants on “The Apprentice.”

Much love to the good people at Penland.  Thanks for the opportunity and the experience.  I hope we get to do it again.

Brooklyn Street Art coverage:  http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/2017/04/17/chip-thomas-wraps-a-house-with-pots-in-penland-north-carolina/

 

event horizon

I was invited to participate in the 2017 Joshua Treenial.  The theme this year was event horizon.  I ventured to Joshua Tree in January to find a potential location for an installation and to obtain source photos.

Thanks to local resident and artist Diane Best I was able to find an abandoned house on the property of Blake Simpson.  Per Blake the house hadn’t been occupied for 10 years or more.   Upon completion of the installation Blake was moved to use the space for community art happenings.  My artist statement describes my thinking about this project.

In general relativity theory, an event horizon is a boundary in space-time beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman’s terms, it is defined as “the point of no return, the point at which gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible, even for light.”

My piece, “Inside out” focuses on an environmental point of no return.  Environmental scientists identify 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere as being the point of no return.  As stated on the website of the environmental organization 350.org:

“…Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at over 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.”

Wildlife biologists predict that at the current rate of temperature rise, 1/3 of all anmal [animal] special are at risk of extinction by 2050 unless CO2 emissions are reduced by 30%.  For this reason, stark imagery from the Salton Sea was used to dramatize the urgency with which we need to act to limit CO2 emissions and subsequent temperature and ocean level increases.

“It would take about 30 feet of sea level rise to connect the Salton Sink to the ocean and permanently fill it again. Realistically, climatologists expect at most 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) of sea level rise by 2100. Without significant reductions to our carbon emissions and/or physical intervention to block sea level rise, the Salton Sink (as well as all of the area reaching from Imperial Valley to the Sea of Cortez) will eventually be permanently under water. (https://saltonseasense.com/2016/01/14/the-other-changing-sea-level/#more-1166)

Our pattern of carbon based energy exploitation and consumption has turned our planet upside down and inside out.  The Hopi have a word for this called “koyaanisqatsi” which means crazy life or life out of balance.

The time to act is now.

Images by Diane Best are below:

Images by Gabrielle Houeix are below:

My artist statement was included in the structure with the hopes of raising awareness and prompting people to action.

Video of the dancing joshua tree: https://vimeo.com/212393820

Brooklyn Street Art blog coverage of the Joshua Tree installation is here.

 

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.

 

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-1

Tahnee on hoverboard while Tehya gets her moccasins tied.

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-5

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-2

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-3

Cori adjusting Tahnee’s sash belt.

The Hurleys

the-hurleys-with-great-grandchild-bw

mr-mrs-hurley-bw

The Hurleys with + without their great grandson, Batman.

Let’s do this 2017!  Happy New Year!

Indigenous People’s Day at Fort Lewis College

standing-with-standing-rock

stop-police-brutality

end-racism

 

drum-circle

jc-with-mom-dog-full-installation

family-on-stage

mural

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.

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