The Mending Of The Hoop
In the summer of 2013, I moved to South Dakota at the invitation of a family living on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to begin work on a painting series of seven generations of Pipe On Head grandsons of Spotted Elk, or "Big Foot," who was killed in the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, SD. Spotted Elk was the the chief of the Lokato band of Miniconjou.
A ten-year-old grandson of Spotted Elk, James Pipe On Head survived the massacre and it is his descendants who I paint.
Black Elk, a Lakota Holy Man who witnessed the slaughter at Wounded Knee of Spotted Elk and his people, prophesied that the sacred hoop so brutally broken at Wounded Knee, would be mended within seven generations.
(Thoughts while driving from Oglala to Kyle...)
In 1832, George Catlin painted a portrait of Spotted Elk's father, Chief Lone Horn, who he noted with high regard in his journal. Catlin loved the Indians and their way of life, but he felt urgently motivated to paint the Indians because he believed that the Indians were all disappearing along with the buffalo. Catlin wrote in 1841: […] the Indian and the buffalo - joint and original tenants of the soil, and fugitives together from the approach of civilized man; […] have fled to the great plains of the West, and there under an equal doom, they have taken up their last abode, where their race will expire and their bones will bleach together...bleak words...
And now, riding across the prairie of Catlin’s landscape, bobbing my head to the music of Pine Ridge KILI radio station playing on the car radio and dreaming of eating a buffalo burger, I reflect upon the profound visionary distinction between Catlin and myself as artists. Catlin painted Chief Lone Horn with a doomed vision that anticipated the breaking of the sacred hoop at Wounded Knee. I humbly paint the seven generations of Lone Horn's son, Spotted Elk, with a vision of renewed life and a hope that my work as an artist might help to mend the sacred hoop. Catlin painted the vision of Manifest Destiny; I paint the prophetic vision of Black Elk.
Gathering The Mind
by Sun Bu-er (c. 1119-1182 C.E.) *
(The same for men and women.)
Before our body existed,
One energy was already there.
Like jade, more lustrous as it's polished,
Like gold, brighter as it's refined.
Sweep clear the ocean of birth and death,
Stay firm by the door of total mastery.
A particle at the point of open awareness,
The gentle firing is warm.
Taoist philosophy has influenced the way I see the world. Gathering the Mind, the first of Fourteen Poems by the Taoist Immortal Sister, Sun Bu-er (c. 1119–1182 C.E.), inspired me to produce a series of digital watercolours that are painted using a digital stylus and tablet. A different leaf represents each line of the poem. They are inner alchemical meditations.
*Immortal Sisters: Secret Teachings of Taoist Women, Trans and Ed by Thomas Cleary, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA 1996