a literary review
Through aesthetics, these works create a critical dialogue examining how America has treated people, lands, and resources, domestically or abroad.
Fawn Douglas: Blood Quantum, canvas, clay, sinew, acrylic 2019
In 1934, The Indian Reorganization Act determined what it meant to be “Indian” based on blood quantum. Native American’s are the only people within the United States that have a blood quantum number attached to their names. Currently, the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe stipulates within its Constitution and bylaws that a member must be ¼ Southern Paiute descended from the 1940 United States Census Role. Since the beginning of The New Deal era, many tribes’ enrollment numbers have decreased. The current state of Native affairs as it pertains to enrollment are critical for many tribes. Sovereignty is the tribes right to self-governance and ultimately determines who is and who is not a member of their tribe. There are many Indigenous people that have gone through legal battles, family issues and more to claim their roots. Tribal identity is important to Native people as we work to dismantle the colonial constructs that have held us down since 1492. We continue to fight for recognition every single day. Strips of paint and red clay-stained cloth are ripped and then hand sewn back together with sinew. Some strips had more or less pigment to them. It reflects the issue of blood quantum and to realize that we are torn from the same cloth.
Kevin C Lawler: Bananas, oil on canvas, 2021
Bananas is a meditation on the impact American foreign policy has had in South America and it’s direct correlation with the current influx of immigrants seeking to flee violence and conditions created by such policies. Researching the United Fruit company lead me to the poem “United Fruit” by Pablo Neruda which influenced the painting greatly.
Kevin C Lawler: Revolt At Cincinnati, oil on canvas, 2021
Revolt at Cincinnati is a meditation on the current right wings obsessions. It takes inspiration from the event it’s title is based on.
May 22nd 1977, a man named Harlon Carter, a border agent and child murderer who shot a 16 year old because he falsely believed he’d stolen from him, and Neal Knox, a conspiracy theorist who hated the government and loved guns, successfully infiltrated and took over the NRA changing it from a gun enthusiast/marksmen club advocating gun safety and regulations to the far right anti-government nuthouse it is today.
I feel that event, where a deranged racist border guard and a far right conspiracy theorist fearing a “new world order” is a pivotal moment in American history that gives some rooting to the current turmoils found in American conservatism.
I chose a “Rockwell” type of aesthetic because I find there is a glorification of America pre-1964 within American Conservatism.
Ross Takahashi: Folded Fortunes, gilded cast bronze, steel, and wood, 2021
Folded Fortunes looks at hapa identity and Japanese-American identity and culture. Specifically, a history of Japanese-American incarceration/internment throughout World War II and the incredible amount of fortunes lost during this dark time period. Each gilded bronze origami crane represents one of the camp locations, and features local flora from that region. During the summer of 2021 I traveled the country visiting each one of the sites to create this installation. While the cranes feature war torn edges, I gilded them to highlight the unique hapa culture and the strength of the Japanese-Americans and stories of prosperity after incarceration. During interviews with other hapa Japanese-Americans I talked with a few who mentioned family making kanzashi with fabric scraps while in the camps. As a way to pay homage I included cast hana kanzashi into the piece, with each representing the 1/16th percentage requirement to qualify for incarceration.
Ross Takahashi: Bessekai, cast iron, timber, and cable, 2021
“Bessekai” translates into Another World, the piece communicates the shinto principals of nature and kami, viewing the realm of nature sacred. This is the first piece created as part of the hapa series that focuses on looking at what it means to be mixed race. This version of a torii gate utilizes both western and eastern designs while representing a transition between worlds. As climate change rapidly shifts the landscape, we need to hold onto what is sacred. The gate is installed entering into back country of North-Eastern Ohio. As designed, this piece will transition throughout the seasons.
Elizabeth Aamot: The White House, spray paint, typewriter, and forever stamp on front and reverse of vintage postcard, 2020
In September of 2020, I joined a group of 13 artists called the Septembre Collective who met online during the height of the pandemic to support each other in creating art projects during that month. Using vintage postcards of American landscapes as canvases, I created a series of tiny works, which I call postpoems, to send to group members. These I stenciled in spray paint using a colored dot motif borrowed from the contemporary “selfie wall” to suggest the evolution of yesteryear’s postcard into today’s social media post. Then I used a 1926 Underwood No. 5 typewriter to imprint each card with text commenting on its original caption. The texts were composed to investigate the evolution of the stories we share about the landscapes we inhabit and travel through, and to question how we position ourselves in relation to landmarks, particularly through the names we give them. As I created the postpoems, I found they worked effectively to evoke the particular sense of grasping for meaning and connection, as well as the dissociation from time and place, that so many of us experienced during this potent moment of pandemic lockdowns, climate catastrophes, political chaos and social unrest.
Fawn Douglas is an Indigenous American Artivist and enrolled member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. Fawn is the head matriarch of Nuwu Art + Activism Studios, located in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is dedicated to the intersections of art, activism, community, education, culture, identity, place, and sovereignty.
Kevin C Lawler is a figurative painter working out of Chicago Illinois. His work is politically motivated and often rooted in the tension between radicalized individualism and collectivism.
Ross Takahashi-Brummer is a mixed-race Japanese-American artist, sculptor, and art educator. His surrealist sculptures focuses on contemporary issues surrounding the human condition, bio-diversity, the Anthropocene, and most recently hapa identity and culture.
Elizabeth Aamot is an artist, writer, and mother of young children living in Oakland, California. She is currently working on a novel telling the life story of the witch who lives in a gingerbread house and a model of a Biblically correct angel. Find her work at www.postpoet.xyz