The Indigenous Iconic Earth Altar is inspired by American Indian astronomy and traditional hide garments. Symbolizing the revival of Native culture, this circular project contains overarching themes relating to the unity and interdependence between humans and the universe. The central medicine wheel, an American Indian cultural canon, mirrors the cosmos and represents the balance of four basic dimensions: the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. When integrated, these can produce personal success and wellness.
Other basic divisions correspond to the four cardinal directions, the four seasons, the four times of day, the four elements and so on. The total altar embodies, in its design, dualism and reciprocity where complementaries in all realms are not opposing but integrated; such as male-female, past-future and intuitive-analytical. The very center shows this duality, where yellow meets black and red meets white. Four colors are normally used to represent all these various aspects of the sacred circle: yellow, red, black and white (assigned
colors do differ across Native cultures).
Traditional hide garments are said to carry the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental power of the wearer. In the context of this five-piece “walk-around” fiber installation, these “Power Dresses” are wearable medicine wheels. As you can see, the colors used within each of the directional quadrants also contain “elemental abstractions,” patterns relating to each corresponding dress.
The altar as a whole carries the power of a life philosophy. It pays homage to the synthesis thinking of indigenous people across the Americas, a holistic non-hierarchal approach for understanding the universe and the human relationship to all life forms within it and beyond. By piecing together this inter-related belief system, the artist sends a message of renewed honor and respect for our life-supporting earth, a concept intrinsic to traditional American Indian cultural values.
By integrating four-dimensional geometry into the central wheel, the artist suggests a parallel correlation between modern space-time physics and this “infinite synthesis” philosophy where everything is unified.
The multi-faceted, multi-layered nature of this project has served as both a learning and teaching tool. It has allowed the artist to reclaim and reveal the nature of duality in balance and the significance of the life force, seasonal cycles, elements, land connection and ecology for all American Indian spiritual traditions regardless of political boundaries.
To this end, each dress carries a totem-like iconic symbol that is common to indigenous creation stories and ceremonial practices across North, Central and South America. These ancient icons are metaphors for the evolution and transformation of human consciousness (death and rebirth) and are reinterpreted in a contemporary, high-tech mode, combining traditional materials with new technology and connecting the world of the artist’s ancestors with contemporary society.