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hózhó

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.

gamma goat to the rescue

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The Navajo nation has an unemployment rate at about 50%.  While the tribe is pursuing investment and job opportunities much of the land under consideration for development is contaminated with uranium from over 500 uncapped mines which deters businesses from investing.  The companies who abandoned the mines in the 60s + 70s when the price and demand for uranium dropped aren’t legally bound to clean up their sites per mining laws from the 1800s when prospectors were mining for precious minerals.

Concerned with the possibility of accidental contamination by wandering into abandoned mine sites the EPA created a coloring book for grade school kids on the rez.  The star is “Gamma Goat” who introduces himself saying “That’s right.  I’m named after the most powerful form of radiation given off by uranium, gamma rays.  I know how to stay away from areas where radiation may harm me and I’m here to teach you, your friends and family how to be safe too.”  Meanwhile, contamination continues to affect the land, water, animals and humans.

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jc at the white house

 

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jc at coconino center for the arts

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thanks to travis iurato for arranging the wall.

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Colibri Center for Human Rights

 

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“Security is the denial of life. Love is what enables us to cross borders.” – Robin Reineke, founder of Colibri Center for Human Rights – whose work this collaborative #mural is based off of. Colibri Center for Human Rights does the fierce forensic and beautiful work of reuniting with families the remnants of the resilient migrants who die in their journey across the border. When the wheat paste bones peel off, it will reveal a human carrying her child driven by an undefeatable love that drives her to transcend borders. Here I’m wheatpasting the last wing bone for Chip Thomas who sized and put together the whole skeleton and whom I learned to #wheatpaste from. This mural could not have been possible without the love and creativity from the local Phoenix arts community who wanted to bring the illumination of migrants to the forefront and honor the dead. This is only 1/5 of a massive Mural collaboration with artists including Karlito Miller Espinosa Thea Gahr, @theallelectrickitchen, Julius Badoni, Lucinda Yrene and Lalo Cota and so many more people. The full reveal will be tomorrow. thank you Phoenix, you have been brighter than I could’ve ever imagined.

— with Jess Chen.

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