As the saying goes, hindsight is 2020. Of course this references vision, but as much as I shy from these nuanced phrases, it’s inevitable. Not unlike the other phrase, “I wish I knew then what I know now”. Just before the pandemic I was setting on making–and still am–the work of my dreams. I always wanted to see the art tradition of the land I was born and have deep roots in recognized in a higher profile. Like roots, it takes time for a message to break through and connect. All that said, there were foundations that helped me get there, which are many.
In process of carving I have always been aware that the cedar I carve was alive, and from this place, and therefore sacred. It can be daunting to think about what you are shaping into something and be lead into paralysis by analysis. Which lead to my naming of this print as such. I felt it wasn’t easy to name something with complex reflection, which it is ultimately named. It is something that isn’t talked about often, but it’s not always clear what I am making as I am making it, or why it comes to be a driving factor for me to make it.
As a Native artist, I’m often asked about casinos and stereotypes of my culture. We are unfortunately not well represented or visible. To some, we are like unicorns in the wild, which is something I have finally made peace with over the years. In the end, we are human beings like anyone else, but with a unique history in the land of the free and home of the brave.
During the time of ‘lock down’ in the early pandemic, I was nervous like anyone else, but somewhat reluctant about how I could express it. I had worked on designs that could be looked at as a card deck, and from there this image shaped itself. Examining what our ancestors would think about how we live today, caught in a game of monetary values as a gauge of worth. Yet, all the while thinking of underlying values of the environment that shaped our culture.
Harvesting cedar bark from the trees to provide shelter and clothing is, or at least was, commonplace at a time. Bark pounded into soft fiber, roots woven into hats, capes lined with eagle down as means to literally remind us our connection to the land and its values. It was a different time and a different world in many ways. However, in time of isolation–which I have to do as part of my nature of occupation painting or carving–I recalled a powerful memory of a woman and man wearing cedar clothing, not entirely, but a hat, a backpack and eagle feathers crossing the street in downtown Seattle. It made me light up to know that they were not putting on a show or flaunting culture in opposition, but moving about as we all do in our daily lives.
Something about that memory made me put a pen in my hand and start drawing something from what was not comfortable, necessarily, but felt right to me. In this time of reflection I was thinking about the mask of this day we wear for function and not for show. Then, equally, how we put on a mask to show how happy we are when we aren’t, and how it took a pandemic for some
to come to grips with this. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t something I wrestle with, but I’m no shaman, I’m no leader,
I’m a product of my environment. I’m fortunate to have roots that kept me grounded here and I see the power of reflection in so many ways. Like anyone else, looking into my phone doesn’t tell me who I am or where I came from. No more than a screen does, or looking in the mirror.
I also wanted to depict somehow a modern reflection of a story of a man who sought fire for power so much that he had become it. Without humility, we give up more than we know. For some it is time, for some it is value, but there is resolution where lightning touches the water.