I spent most of last week preparing for First Friday’s open studio at Grounds for Sculpture by working on three altered metal mixing bowls and cleaning up the Tech MEB Workshop to get it ready to display the work for the public to see. The night of the event there was a good turnout of people and our conversations ranged from talking about materials and process to concepts and backstories. What I ended up focusing on the most was the process and where the idea for this project originated from.
Before starting the residency I had worked with used metal mixing bowls to make a series of sculptures where I dressed them with skirts sourced from the Southwest region of the United States. These sculptures hung by ropes and were filled with different contents ranging from coal and coffee to dried beans and sunflower seeds. In this series of sculptures I aimed to create a presence through absence and pay homage to the countless victims and families of assaulted, murdered, and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Natani Notah, Skirted (a series), 2017-present, used skirts, second-hand mixing bowls, portable stools, rope, acrylic paint, and elements such as cough syrup, coffee, contaminated water, crushed coal, pinto beans, and sunflower seeds. Dimensions variable.
Although I found these sculptures successful in many ways, I also felt compelled to continue working with these mixing bowls to challenge myself to alter them further and use their function to suggest a conversation surrounding consumption. More specifically I was interested in sparking dialogue about the corrupted consumption of Native bodies, designs, and ideologies over time. Thus the faux pottery series, tentatively titled, They Are Worth More than You Think was born. A play on words and ideas, this series explores the layered exploitation of Native American people through the meticulous application of stylized Southwestern aesthetics to the surfaces of metal mixing bowls. For me, taking a cold, mass produced, machine made object and transforming it to mimic the texture and look of pottery, actively responds to the ongoing history of colonization that continues to plague our country. Like this history, these sculptures are dynamic and change from every angle to provide complicated glimmers of self reflection and moments where materials and designs sit side by side––coexisting, but remaining distinctly their own.
Currently I consider these three sculptures to be nearing completion, however in the future I see myself pushing the work further by manipulating the stainless steel more through deep etchings and stamp work. Additionally I am thinking through the installation of the work for documentation and upcoming shows. In turn asking questions such as: Should I fully lean into the language of museums by placing them in vitrines to push an underlying critique of the acquisition, display, and consumption of Native made art and objects, and/or do I resist this reading and create plexiglass or mirrored stands that allow them to float in space and be seen from all angles?
It is questions like these and many more that I will carry forward in my practice. Upon leaving the ISC at Grounds for Sculpture residency I am extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to work on this project and build upon my ideas. I want to thank the International Sculpture Center and Grounds for Sculpture for enabling me to start this new body of work that will undoubtedly inform future projects and lead to other opportunities. Ahéhee’ (Thank you).