March 9, 2013

The Other Vendors

After I made a sketch of Patti Battaglia (posted earlier) at a vendor show a few years ago, I focused my attention on the other vendors, Wanpovi and Gilbert, with whom we shared our tent. The sketch I made of Wanpovi became the material for a painting. Her painting became part of my poetry book and I believe this may be somewhere in my blog site if readers have occasion to search for it. Wanpovi and Gilbert were a mother/son artist team and although the sketch of the mother became a painting, her son Gilbert was never painted. So to give him his just due, I’ve spent a few days refing the sketch into a completed drawing. Because the original sketch was 9" x 9" to meet the criteria for a canvas of that size, the 9" x 12" composition in this drawing added three extra inches in which I had to invent details. In this space I’ve created extra pottery pieces to add to the original blackware I depicted in the sketch. I’ve also added two works of Pre-Columbian sculpture and a Paracas embroidery design circa 1000 AD. The sculpture at the right is an Olmec figure of a dancer. The figure is described in my text as a male, yet I felt that there was something about the attire which bespeaks a more feminine gender. (Textbooks aren’t always correct). Why would a male be wearing what looks like a breast garment? When I studied the culture of Native American blackware pottery with Gilbert and Wanpovi, I learned about a female goddess of clay. I like to think of this figure as that goddess.

The standing figure to the right is Chavin and represents a flute player sporting a jaguar on his head. I placed this figure too low in the composition but instead of drawing it over again higher up in the picture plane, I simply added an arc above the sculpture. Now it looks a bit like a Chavin thermos container with a handle. Funny how a detail changes everything.

The juxtaposition of contemporary Native American Art with Pre-Columbian artifacts is poignant for it implies a thread of continuity which exists perhaps in spirit but not in reality. Many threads were broken in Native American History as conquest and diaspora disrupted cultural preservation. The blackware pottery illustrated, for instance, had to be rediscovered and the craft relearned in the mid-twentieth century. There is some cause for hope as Native crafts are being researched and relearned, however. In this century even the beautifully artistic Mayan written language is being given back to the speakers of the Mayan tongue. It is with some bittersweet justice that art and language are slowly returned to their original owners.  How time changes everything.

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