jetsonorama

I called a fellow physician in Tuba City about a month ago to get his guidance.  I had a patient coming down off a several week binge who was open to inpatient rehab.  Despite my being here 28 plus years I wanted to confirm with my friend who has been working on the rez 30 years that despite there being high rates of drug and alcohol use on the reservation there’s still no treatment facilities.  I was hoping the resources had appeared miraculously under my radar.  Sadly, he confirmed that we’ve got new jails in Tuba City and Kayenta to temporarily detain people for public intoxication but no rehabilitation centers. Yet, the Navajo nation and indigenous people in general have one of the highest suicide rates in the country which often occurs under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. It’s a problem that’s been well documented.

“The game of life is hard to play.

I’m going to lose it anyway.

The losing card I’ll someday lay.

So this is all I have to say…

That suicide is painless.

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave it if I please.”

MASH theme song by Johnny Mandel

 

Case in point.  I’ve know Josie since shortly after I arrived in 1987.  I’ve taken care of her in her pregnancies, am watching her kids grow up and was with her on that hot, windy day in June of 1994 when she walked down the aisle for the first time, her father at her side while her sister secured her dress.

Josey-Watson's-wedding-(June-94)

When I went to her in 2011 with the idea of photographing her infant daughter JC for a campaign to raise awareness on CO2 emissions she and her husband Hank were there for me.

jc-looking-up-(b+w)

Her oldest son Kordell attended high school in Tuba City.  He competed against my son Jamaal who attended school in Page. Josie and I talked often about how our boys were doing.  She told me that Kordell enjoyed competing against Jamaal who made him play harder, play his best.

Talking with Josie now a year after Kordell shot himself at age 16 it sounds like she could see it coming.  Despite their best efforts Kordell didn’t heed his parents interventions.  Though the reservation is dry, drugs and alcohol are plentiful.  Now it’s Josie’s mission to raise awareness regarding drug and alcohol use while trying to get the tribe to build a rehabilitation center. She realizes the problem is multifaceted – that the education system needs a robust overhaul, after school programs need to be created and sustained, youth centers are needed and meaningful work is missing on the reservation where the unemployment rate hovers around 50%.  Despite the odds she feels it’s what she’s being called to do.  She doesn’t want Kordell’s death to be in vain though 2 other suicides occurred in the family shortly after Kordell’s.  Yet she remains positive.

jc-on-horseback

 

girls-on-horseback

 

1. jc-getting-her-hair-braided

 

2. josey-breastfeeding

 

3.--hands

 

4.--my-girl-jc

 

7.--family-3

 

5.--family-1

 

6.--family-2

There’s work to be done; the struggle continues.  Stay tuned…

free your mind…

New stickers and screen prints.

 

owen-holding-his-sticker

Owen, now 11, holding a sticker of himself with his brother Aidan in the background getting a snowball ready for his noggin.

 

owen-throwing-snowball

 

family-portrait-(dogs-+-cat)

 

owen-at-little-colorado-overlook-(no-text,-sepia)

 

stephanie i am the change (revised blue) 5 inches

 

jc with coal cloud (4 inches)
step-on-jr's-house

Individual stickers are $3.00 each or buy 2 for $5.00.  Contact me at jetsonorama@gmail.com if interested.

 

step-holding-step-on-jr's-house

Stephanie rocking the screen print of her image on JR’s former house outside Tuba City.

 

police-line-(toren)

For backstories + ordering info head over to http://www.jetsonorama.net and look for the “shop” tab.

Peace.

it only got up to 23 degrees today

santa-in-tuba-city

santa outside tuba city

 

sheep-1a-in-cow-springs

 

lola

 

 

luci's trailer

Luci’s trailer on Christmas Day

 

It only got up to 23 degrees today.  Not only was it cold, it was windy as shit.  All day.  Cold + windy.  As I was driving from the rez into Flagstaff I was thinking of the effort Klee Benally is making to distribute warm clothing and blankets to indigenous folks staying outside in the winter.  His campaign is called No More Native Deaths (I think.)  As I was driving I remembered seeing the last time I was in town a Diné friend who has fallen on hard times and who is living outside in Flagstaff now.   I wondered if he’s staying at the mission in town.

I made it to Flagstaff and was running errands when I encountered the friend I’d been worrying about.  He was dressed in many layers on this cold + windy day when the temperature only got up to 23 degrees.  His speech was slurred and he had a swagger in his step.  I gave him a hug telling him:

“I’d been was just thinking about you in this cold weather as I drove in from the rez.  Are you staying at the mission” I asked.

He confirmed that he’s not staying at the mission.  I told him about Klee’s campaign and that I worried about him living outside now to which he replied:

“5 people have already frozen to death this week.”

He said he wanted help with some food.  My friend with whom I’d just eaten and I had some nice leftovers and shared those. He thanked us, we hugged again and went our separate ways into a wind that cut like a knife.

building community

“The war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war and he does at his best what lover’s do which is to reveal the beloved to himself and with that revelation to make freedom real.”      James Baldwin

When I started wheat pasting large images along the roadside in 2009 I imagined it as an opportunity to deepen my relationship with the community where I work on the rez.  I often thought of this process as an experiment in building community in which I knew the medium for building community but was uncertain of the outcome.  What I’ve learned along the way is the importance of trust and how the process of building community parallels nurturing a friendship.

As a documentary photographer I believe everyone has a unique story though not everyone wants their story told.  But for those who do a trusting relationship established over time with the story teller is critical to an objective telling of this story.  I’ve learned inadvertently that taking someone’s words and writing or painting them directly onto their face is akin to the exercise of falling backwards trusting that the person positioned behind you will really catch you and prevent you from hitting the floor.  Unlike writing onto a photograph of someone’s face, spending 30 to 60 minutes sitting 18 inches away from someone you may not know well exploring the contours of their face, their lips, gently writing on their eyelids is a bonding, trust building exchange.  That someone would let you do this, photograph them and create a public mural is tangible evidence of their conviction to their beliefs, to their words.  As James Baldwin said, they are willing to reveal the beloved to himself and with that revelation make freedom real.

klee + princess 1.jpg

 

klee + princess 2

Rey Cantil painting the words of Flagstaff activists onto their faces regarding the controversial practice of using reclaimed waste water to make artificial snow on a sacred mountain.

 

klee + princess

 

john, sam + step

 

ladies 1

ladies 2

ladies 3

ladies 4

The experiment in community building is ongoing.  I continue falling backwards believing someone will be there to catch me. And while I don’t want to be known as the guy who writes on people’s face, it is an effective tool for getting a heartfelt message out.  Thank you to the community for trusting me with your words and joining me in this adventure.

requiem for a warming planet

improvisational duet with ice by dancer kimi victoria eisele.  (music “pathways of the mind” from meridian suite by antonio sanchez.)

 

goodbye to ice

Danish – Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson partnered with Danish geologist Manik Rosing to create a tangible commentary on climate change by bringing 12 blocks of glacial ice from Greenland to Paris for ArtCop 21.  The piece is titled “Ice Watch.”  By arranging the 12 pieces of ice like the numbers on a clock their melting in the temperate Parisian environment is a poignant reminder of our planet warming and the detrimental impact this will have on our fragile ecosystem.

 

 

“ain’t i a woman?”

kids-1

 

kids-2

 

mahogany-browne

 

dog-1

 

dog-2

 

kind-woman-on-the-street-1

 

kind-woman-on-the-street-2

 

t'ai-freedom-ford

 

In 1851 Kingston native Sojourner Truth electrified audiences at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, OH with an extemporaneous speech on the value of womanhood known as “Ain’t I a Woman?”  Having been invited to create a mural for the O + Festival in Kingston, New York my collaborator Jess X. Chen and I wanted to honor the historical contribution of Sojourner Truth to the women’s rights movement and her role as an humanitarian by asking three New York City based, African-American, female poets to share with us poems pertaining to African-American womanhood.  The three poets included Jennifer Falu; writer, poet and teacher T’ai Freedom Ford and writer, poet and director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Mahogany Browne. Sadly, due to time constraints only Mahogany Browne and T’ai Freedom Ford were included in the mural.

In celebrating these poets Jess + I chose to include verses of their poems as halos around their heads. Mahogany Browne’s halo is extracted from her poem “Black Girl Magic.”
They say you ain’t posed to be here
You ain’t posed to wear red lipstick
You ain’t posed to wear high heels
You ain’t posed to smile in public
You ain’t posed to smile no where, girl

You ain’t posed to be more than a girlfriend
You ain’t posed to get married
You ain’t posed to want no dream that big
You ain’t posed to dream at all
You ain’t posed to do nothing but carry babies
And carry weaves
And carry felons
And carry families
And carry confusion
And carry silence
And carry a nation — but never an opinion
You ain’t posed to have nothing to say
unless its a joke

Cause you ain’t posed to love yourself Black Girl
You ain’t posed to find nothing worth saving in all that brown
You ain’t posed to know that Nina Beyonce Tina Cecily Shonda Rhimes shine shine shine

Black Girl,
You ain’t posed to love your mind
You ain’t posed to love
You ain’t posed to be loved up on

You only posed to pose voodoo Chile’ vixen style
You posed to pop out babies & hide the stretch marks
You posed to be still
So still they think you statue
So still they think you a chalked outline
So still they keep thinking you stone
Until you look more Medusa than Viola Davis
Until you sound more Shenananay than Kerry Washington
Until you more side eye than Michelle Obama on a Tuesday

But You tell them you are more than a hot comb & a wash n set
You are kunta kente’s kin
You are a black Girl worth remembering

& You are a threat knowin yourself
Loving yourself
Loving your kin
Loving your children
you black girl magic
you black girl flyy
you black girl brilliance
you black girl wonder
you black girl shine
you black girl bloom
you black girl black girl
And you turning into a beautiful blk woman right before they eyes

T’ai Freedom Ford shared her poem “I Sell the Shadow to Sustain the Substance” which she dedicates to African-American conceptualist Glenn Ligon and to Sojourner Truth.  Verses of her poem were projected onto her and used in her halo.

“I Sell the Shadow to Sustain the Substance”

As a Black woman I am untitled – nameless.

My heart a faint glow of neon wire buzzing toward some shameless demise.

I stand against walls looking nonchalant.

Flashbulbs mistake me for celebrity or bored whore.

Same difference.

As Black woman I am installation art as negress.

My heart a black plastic bag ghosting streets.

What parts of me ain’t for sale as woman?

A sincere word of thanks goes out to Gaia, the Kingston O Positive Festival, Michael Pisacane, Andrew Erdos, Clara Darrason, Mahogany Browne, T’ai Freedom Ford, Jennifer Falu, Jess X. Chen and the good people of Kingston, NY.

mo

 

finished mural

 

jess + me

 

the poets, jess + i

with mahogany browne, jennifer falu, t’ai freedom ford and jess x. chen.

people’s climate march commemorative screen print

people's-climate-march-(monica!-screenprint-3)

people's-climate-march-(monica!-screenprint-2)

people's-climate-march-(monica!-screenprint-1)
people's-climate-march-(monica!)

in anticipation of the world climate summit (this december in paris) you can show the painted desert project some love by getting a one color, hand pulled (by the good people at ocelot print shop in detroit) commemorative screen print on 19 x 25 archival paper.  they’re a limited edition of fifty, signed, stamped + numbered for $50.  if interested, hit me at jetsonorama@gmail.com.

peace.

don’t ski the pee

klee-+-princess-1

klee-+-princess-2

rayann wanland

photo by raeann wanland

 

debbie leavittphoto by debbie leavitt

the arizona snowbowl (the ski resort in flagstaff making snow from reclaimed waste water while desecrating a site considered sacred to 13 local tribes), is expanding.  in 2012 i connected with local artists and activists asking them what they thought of the initial proposal to make snow from waste water.  their responses were written on their faces, photographed and 2 murals were made in downtown flagstaff.  with the news of the recent expansion, i returned to the sagacious words of diné musician, activist and filmmaker, klee benally and his wife, princess – “what we do the mountain, we do to ourselves.” thanks to everybody who stopped by and gave me love today.  it’s always appreciated.

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