I hold difference as sacred and am concerned with how an individual functions in society. This interest is no doubt a result of my isolated upbringing near a small town in the mountains of Vermont.
My grandmother lived next door and was Abenaki Indian, a tribe indigenous to the Vermont area. She didn't have running water, by choice. She and I were inseparable. The mountains gave one TV station and poor radio reception. We spent our time playing games, making and fixing things, and walking in the woods. We talked throughout all of it, for hours and years. I heard stories about my ancestors from St. Francis now Odanak Reservation and how anthropologist Gordon Day * spent days at my grandmother's home interviewing her mother Elvine Obomsawin. She spoke of the difficulties faced by indigenous people as well as other minorities. These stories became part of who I am and grapple with identifying myself as today.
By letting my grandmother's influence into my process, I started to navigate my contemporary indigenous presence publicly. It has taken me years to reconcile my upbringing with the academic ideologies of my studio practice. My new work feels both liberating and scary for the overlap of these two territories. It has always been difficult to discuss my indigenous identity because of how I look; I look white.
Materials became an unforeseen player in this dialogue. The academic media I had little to no connection to became superseded by the appreciation of practical things, something central to how I was raised. My materials became items found in most households and are inexpensive. Accessibility should never be a barrier to creating. The materials in my work have a voice and help direct, even motivate, the imagery and path the work takes to unfold narratives of individual and social encounters. Whether ripping, crumpling, dying, cutting, or stitching, all techniques are meant to emote and provide context to a scenario. This idea of a scenario is why the titles are definitions of words and not the words themselves.
The influences of quilts, folk art, and crafted objects that were part of my early understanding of creating, currently help ground my process. And so, it is no surprise that my work has a similar spirit. Where manual labor, spiritual energy, and respect of materials are as valued as aesthetic qualities. Additionally, I mean these acts of labor alongside the use of organic material to give the work a physicalness, a presence that might state, "We are here."