LAND, WATER, WARRIORS or ‘holy fuck I have an art show’.

July 29, 2016 I went on a solo road trip. Well me and my dog. We packed up the car and headed out on the highway. No real plan, no real destination. All we knew is that we would head south. I just wanted to drive. To sort my thoughts, have coffee in the car, windows down and camp along the way.  We had nine days to see where the road would take us. Where the wind would blow us.

We stayed off the interstates as much as possible and drove the secondary and tertiary roads. Alone. Not a car in sight. The beautiful landscape unfurling before us, the silky black ribbons of road rising and falling on the gentle curves of horizons. We chased the sun. We stopped along the way. We ran in fields. We stood in the center of the road and decided where to next. Looks like a storm is brewing over there, so lets head over here.

We skirted the cities and bumped into small town America. We drove down south through North Dakota, South Dakota, across to Wyoming up through Montana and back across North Dakota. We fell in love with the land. With the big skies. With the freedom. The unknowing of where you’ll sleep tonight. Everything we needed was in the car. We wanted for nothing.

We unknowingly had begun to follow the the track of our ancestors. The tribal territories that were now reservations. We went through Fort Berthold, Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, Crow Agency, and Devils Lake Reservations.  Land so beautiful I fell head over heels in love with it. It felt like home. With a history so twisted and convoluted with wars, broken treaties, and being taken that it broke my heart. I would often pull the car over and sit silently on a lone stretch of highway at the side of the road breathing in the past and dreaming of what was and what could have been.We were only gone 9 days, but it felt like a lifetime. A hundred lifetimes. The ghosts of the imagined past played out the wars, beauty and struggles over top of these important historical tribal lands. The lands of my people.

I remember staring out at Little Bighorn thinking about the battle where thousands of Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux people had gathered for Sundance ceremonies and then were attacked. I saw their faces on the land. Heard the sounds, horses running, guns firing, battle cries, The warriors. The Yellowstone River at Pompey’s Pillar where Sacagawea left her ‘husband’ to join the explorer William Clark for three years as his guide. Thinking what a brave woman. What an incredible life. The Mandan village on the banks of the Missouri and the people who were decimated by smallpox, famine. Who now face an even bigger threat from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Will the land that was taken ever be returned? What lives these ghosts and images held and how did they fit together? 

Around August 20th I was asked to showcase some work at a local tea house opening for Sept 1. I thought sure. I have unseen pieces leaning against walls of my house I may as well take them to the light and get them off the floor. That would be easy. Too easy. I’m a person who likes a challenge. I have 10 days and a full time job. Let’s create all new work. Better yet, let’s try something you’ve never done before. Game on.

For four days I experimented. Failure, Failure, Failure. Hmmm. Although when one is making art, one learns that a failure is a lesson in what not to do so you try something else. I wanted to try linocut. I wanted to create a simple language of pictograms and superimpose them on the photos I had taken on my journey. I wanted to put the images of what I had felt and seen in my mind on the horizons and places I had stood.Where my ancestors had stood. I wanted to honour their beauty, their struggle and reconnect the past and present. I wanted to show that the fight to reclaim land continues. That the warriors and protectors of our land and water will not back down.  That the thousands of people, representing hundreds of tribes who are at this very moment banding together at Standing Rock Sioux Nation are still fighting.  I wanted to honour them. I wanted to share what I had learned.

I had a book on lino-cut for beginners and through much trial and error the images began to take shape. I cut, inked, pressed, stamped, cut stencils, sprayed, painted, leafed, tore things up and began again. It was happening. In four days I had seventeen hours of sleep. I was in the zone. It felt like I was being guided, as though I was creating the work with my eyes closed from the inside out, that my hands were thinking out loud. It was peaceful and solitary. There is nothing more divine than finding that creative sweet spot at four AM when the work feels meaningful. When it imbues every cell of your  existence and your ancient history.

And then it was done. It was framed. It was hung. It’s in the shop. I made the deadline. I created the work I wanted. I tried something new. I wasn’t afraid of failure. I told my truth. I shared the truth of others. Is it finished? complete? No. With more time and funds it can be better. But for now I say, Holy fuck, I have an art show.


LAND, WATER, WARRIORS runs until Oct 5, 2016 at the Amsterdam Tea Room located in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, 211 Bannatyne.






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