The Awakening: Parallel Worlds” Artist’s Talk, September 12, 2013, UNC Global Education Center
“The Awakening: Parallel Worlds” grew out of my ongoing attempt to untangle the complicated web of events surrounding the displacement of my Tuscarora, Saponi and Osage ancestors. The exhibit highlights the distinct but under-represented experience of tribes originally located in the Southeastern United States, whose basic worldview is rooted in ancient Mississippian mound culture.
The work examines cultural parallels on artistic, historical and anthropological levels. It is informed by my tri-racial heritage, which reflects parallel stories of European colonization and immigration, as well as African and American Indian enslavement in North Carolina. It is also the culmination of intensive training in the United States and abroad, including time spent in France, China and Germany.
Although many of the images were inspired by stories, dreams and the creative process itself, I have also consciously incorporated historical fact into the works. In particular, the ongoing themes draw upon the fact of indigenous nations surviving within the borders of our modern day United States. Parallel worlds exist through this “nations within a nation” phenomenon. Within this reality, systems of thought that are exclusive of one another have been co-existing. Like many artists of Native descent, the deeper I delve into my Native heritage, the wider the ideological gulf appears to be.
There is also an international focus that speaks to the incredible diversity of the Southeastern region. Embedded in the regional culture are the longstanding histories and inter-relations between varying Indian nations that were here before European contact and present-day borders. At that time, what is now North Carolina was a cosmopolitan area where three of the twelve major language groups on the North American continent coalesced to create a powerful economy complete with trade languages, intensive corn-bean-squash agriculture, river system travel and municipalities.
On an anthropological level, I am unearthing cultural symbols and metaphysical/ philosophical foundations that can begin to reveal the national character of the region. Through this exhibit, my art and cultural understanding help bridge the gap between these parallel worlds by providing a connection to this largely hidden heritage, which has provided the foundation for our present-day trade system and economy.