X’áant xwaanúk Tléil yee ushk’é, I'm angry you are bad is from my body of work about the global climate crisis.
Artists try and make sense of the world. It doesn’t always work because sometimes the world simply doesn’t make sense. So we end up capturing the lunacy.
I assembled this collage around two core images. Raven was first. I was looking for an authoritative, stately posture that would be an iconic black silhouette with a rich, pure charcoal feel. This raven went through the heat and was slightly carbonized, so he was perfect for a cheerful black day at the power plant. Our creation story involves raven and carbon emissions.
I’m Tlingit and we take shit from nobody. If it weren’t for us, Siberia would extend into North America. Either that or Canada would extend west into what is now Alaska. We drove both groups of colonists out of our homeland at the loss of many lives and I mention this only because it is this warrior philosophy that drives nearly everything I do, especially as an artist. The triangles on the right are stylized Killer Whale teeth and there is a faded Chilkat robe pattern in the decayed wall.
I felt filthy from photographing coal-fired power plants around the country and actually got a nasty nasal infection from being around them. I feel bad for the people who have to live on the same planet as these thousands of massive coal-fired power plants scattered all over Earth. I also feel bad for the home planet and how badly humans have brutalized her. It makes me rethink the definition of humans and whether it is natural for us to ruin our environment because we do it so well. In that sense, it also has me rethinking the definition of the term “nature,” especially when describing humans and what we make, how we treat our environment and each other. It may mean that a Styrofoam cup is as natural as a buffalo, which kind of scares me.
Earthscape #31 is from the Rocketship Chronicles series. When the Apollo astronauts viewed Earth from the moon, they had a profound revelation. Earth was magical. It also had no borders. They knew from a glance that humanity, all the life there, and the planet were one. This is precisely what every Native tribe has been saying since long before they first met White Man. We are all one; you cannot separate just one element and treat it differently. If you pollute the land and the air, you pollute yourself and all other life, we are all connected. It almost seems gratuitous to say this until you look around and realize that most people don’t get it, especially political leaders and industrialists who only care about their most recent earnings statements.
My Earhscapes are about strengthening the notion that our home planet is indeed all we’ve got to live on and we’ve got to start treating it like it’s a home planet and not a colossal waste heap. It’s a little playful in that there is a quasi- yearning for finding another planet where we can find refuge. Then we come to our senses and think, “Wait a minute. This is OUR home planet. It’s the polluters whose damn asses should be on rocket ships out of here, not ours…
I have a portfolio of photos regarding my Rocketship Chronicles on facebook. What's really cool about it is the feedback I get from friends.
One of the most profoundly beautiful, sad and mysterious experiences I've had this year was when our sister Hulleah and I went to say farewell to our brother in art Kimowan Metchewais up in Alberta late this summer. I'm reminded that we meet many gentle spirits on this journey of life and the journey is so short, painfully beautiful, and so damn hard sometimes. We ease the journey with each other, at least this much is clear.
After Kimowan started his journey into the spirit world that morning, a series of peculiar events started to unfold. Hulleah and I tried to be unobtrusive as Kimowan's family went about taking care of Kimowan's passing in the hospital that morning. Antje was beside herself with grief, as was everyone else. Kimowan's mom was so gracious and offered to ride with Hulleah and I up to Cold Lake later that morning.
In a moment of silence, Kimowan's hospital room was vacant, even as people gathered in the guest suite next door sipping coffee and talking quietly, giving each other hugs and tender assurances. There was a feeling of peace and calm amongst the sorrow. Someone laughed gently and gave us the Cree translation for "strong coffee." I wish I could remember those Cree words. I stood at the window looking out at the view as his family went about taking care of business. I noticed a few young ravens playing right outside his window. One in particular was hopping on the roof, doing what was obviously a shadow dance. He was very taken with his shadow and was clearly enjoying it's presence. It's shadow looked like a rocketship. Without even thinking about it I pulled out my camera phone and shot off a bunch of photos, smiling at raven's oblivious playfulness. It made me wonder if perhaps Kimowan was having a bit of fun on his way, and nature couldn't help but play along. Kimowan would've smiled at the camera phone too, I'm sure. We don't need no stinkin' fancy pants cameras, we wing it quite well, thank you.
I have a portfolio of photos that I made on that journey, including many other instances of nature living it up that day. Way more than usual. Here's to you Kimowan, we miss you.
These are the three prints that I have in our 2011 Biennial Art Department Faculty Exhibition today at the Visual Arts Center. Come and check it out, I'm in some most excellent company.
Story Copyright Larry McNeil 2011, All Rights Reserved