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Native Roots Artists Guild show at the C. G. Jung Center

Native Talents

Cursory interest in what is commonly known as “Indian legend” will likely draw a gauze of dream-like fantasy upon many a “European” individual’s meaningful comprehension; too many overlapping complexities sorting out creation myths, traditions, and fables, not to mention cultural and political issues of language, aboriginal territories, sovereignty, and the layered gauze of Western historical expedience.

A profound emotional and psychological confrontation for the renowned psychologist C. G. Jung occurred in a spiritual encounter with a Taos holy man, Mountain Lake, at the Taos pueblo. Of that occasion Jung wrote:

…This Indian had struck…[and]…unveiled a truth…I felt rising within me…like a shapeless mist something unknown, yet deeply familiar…and out of this mist, image upon image detached itself…With a secret stab, I realized the hollowness of the old romanticism about the Crusades. Then followed Columbus, Cortez, and the other conquistadors, who with fire, sword, torture, and Christianity came down upon even these remote Pueblos dreaming peacefully in the sun.”

The cornerstone of Jung’s psychology is a vision of an ancient culture in the natural world.

To the end these veils are further lifted, the Jung Center is presenting a selection of works from the Native Roots Artists Guild, talented Haudenosaunee artists whose vibrant artworks express Native American values through images reflecting the constant challenges, culture, and depth of tradition giving Native peoples the strength to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

No fewer than 20 artists are represented, exhibiting a full range of painted works, mixed media, and woodcraft. Beautifully beaded leather moccasins, necklaces, bracelets, purses, and baby sashes (the carry belt that is worn to lash a child to the mother’s back) are worked in bright felt appliqués with beaded flowers and hummingbirds. Bear Clan symbols decorate History Record, a painted slab of hardwood by Earl Dionne. Canoe paddles and lacrosse sticks by Richard F. Big Kettle are engraved with a creation story: “from the cloudy edge of ‘Sky World’ the hand of creator extends downward releasing a lacrosse stick and ball to drop towards the earth.” This mythology demonstrates how divine gifts contain teachings to shape and instruct one’s mind, body and spirit. Jaqui Crawford’s ingenious appropriation, Sacred Grandmothers, uses a deer jaw as a visual record of a family’s matriarchal growth, as embedded teeth serve as the lower legs of faceless family generations, with head and torsos sketched into the painted bone.

The two high-ceilinged rooms of the Jung Center give ample visibility to every item presented, from miniature clay bowls to the crossed snowshoes framing a large graphic work by one of the standout artist in the show, Roger B. Thompson of the Turtle Clan. Thompson’s prisma-colored pencil drawings on matte board are fascinating in clarity of form and feature. Corn, beans, and squash, the “three sisters,” form the staple diet of the Seneca. Images of these particulars are visibly charged in the paintings of artist Carson Waterman, a member of the Snipe Clan who once saw duty as a “combat artist” during a tour in Vietnam in 1968-69. Lyle Logan’s attention to costume and figuration enliven his watercolor dance cameos. Commanding the pedestal in the front of the gallery is a large clay work by Peter B. Jones, titled She’s Got It All, featuring a buckskin-dressed Seneca matron in sunglasses. In her right hand she holds two bags of money, while the left is outstretched. This figure is the most enigmatic piece in the show. Possibly because the rest of the exhibit is so nominally literal, this cartoon figure seems just mysterious enough to provide a respite from runaway virtuosity.

In the reading room, concurrent with the exhibit, is a display of accompanying Native literature, including the writings of the late author Vine Deloria, a Dakota Sioux, articulating the unspoken emotions, dreams, and lifeways of contemporary Native people. Author of Red Earth, White Lies, God Is Red, and the 1969 bestseller Custer Died for Your Sins, Deloria takes a reader on a momentous journey through Indian country in Spirit and Reason, exploring important Native issues of the past three decades.

Through January and February the Jung Center will host additional events related to the exhibition, including the Native Roots Guild Artists’ talk on February 1 (a First Friday event), 7-9pm.

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