Che-Halpam Amim |Land of the Santiam People [Exhibit]

By Gary Olsen-Hasek
Kalapuya Man By Gary Olsen-Hasek
Original- Kalapuyan Man, South of Eugene area, Wilkes expedition, 1841
Original- Alfred Agate- Kalapuyan Man, South of Eugene area, Wilkes expedition, 1841

Installed just last week (9/4/2015) at the Ike [Box] is a new exhibit I collaborated on with the Friday Artists group from Salem. This exhibit is the first part of a larger project to bring more representations of Native people to Salem, the Capitol of Oregon. I hope to continue working with the group in this larger project.

 

In 1998, I took a term abroad to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and spent a month visiting various Maori tribes. While there, I saw much public indigenous art, not only in galleries but out in the open, beside main streets, in financial districts and incorporated into the normal public decorations that are seen in every city in the world today.

Trade Street, One Way, Jim Hargie
Trade Street, One Way, Jim Hargie, Magnet images over drawing

Upon my return to Oregon, I saw nothing of the native people of this land displayed anywhere in public. It seemed almost like Oregon was washed of all things Native. Yet I knew we were still here, and thought that in the future I would work to inspire efforts to bring Native-themed art back into the public spaces. Since then I have consulted on the public art projects on the new I-5 bridge in Eugene, Whilamut Passage Crossing; curated exhibits at the Willamette Heritage Center, and narrated interpretive signs about the original Tribes of this land, now installed in various cities in western Oregon. Most recently I helped name the Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland.

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“After reading many books, listening to Dr. Lewis, visiting the Grand Ronde Confederated Tribe Museum, listening to my granddaughter who attended Indian summer camp, I started to get an image of the women of Kalapuya. I picture women who were strong, caring, intelligent, competent, and beautiful. It is my hope that my work inspires others to pause, remember them and see them. They are no longer invisible to me.”       – Joan English
Kalapuya Women, Joan English
Kalapuya Women, Joan English

This project was initiated through a ongoing series of discussions with Brian Jeanseau who helps organize the Friday Artists group and just completed a Masters in Religious Studies. Their name to me is really related to the fact that they meet on Fridays to undertake projects and challenges brought to the group. They had completed some 7 or 8 exhibits previously. Brian invited me to make a proposal before the group so some months ago I met on Friday in their studio and discussed with them local tribal history and my visions for bringing Native themes back to Salem. The initial proposal was that with the context I have given them and the use of 19th century images of Native peoples and culture, how would they reinterpret those images and culture in contemporary art forms? The group was eager and willing to take on the task with Brian and I taking care of the logistics.

Perhaps the most important discussion was about agency in the creation of the art. the artists were concerned that since they were not native (mostly) that they would be taking that agency from the Native people. I was initially concerned about that but in thinking about how the original artwork from the 19th century was all drawn by non-native people, it would then be an interesting experience to see what developed once people had a little more grasp of the social justice issues and the history of the tribes. Most native artists I know are working on art all the time, and so there are no significant agency issues here. And in fact since I was consulting with them I was advising them as to the appropriate history of the tribes.

Sannes
Loie Sannes, History of the tribes
De Girardin in 1840s at Willamette Falls, with Native Longhouse in foreground
Woman by the fire is the inspiration here, Eugene De Girardin, 1855

 

 

“What was it like to be her living among her people before whiteman?  What was it like to grieve the loss of family through devastating plagues? How did she withstand the move to a reservation of land not her own? What was her sustaining spiritual life like? Who would she be today?”  All of this in the context of the valley we live in.” – Loie Sannes

 

Sannes, detail
Loie Sannes, detail epidemic section

Satisfied with the project the artists got to work and drafted some sketches of their ideas. We met again and the level of commitment was high, and the ideas coming from the artists were progressing well.  I shared with them many images from the 19th century and we communicated a bit over Facebook. In a few months I began to see photos of art appear on their site.

Brian and I organized early on that we would display at the Ike [Box], and that I would be writing the ethnographic descriptions of the original images and offer responsive commentaries to the new art. Everything began coming together in August and I began receiving images of new art to respond to.

Sannes, Detail
Loie Sannes, Detail Oregon Trail and ancestors

As late as two days before the installation I received more new images and plunked out commentaries based on only the images. On the final day (Friday) the group briefly met at the artists’ studio and I saw several new images that were just added to the project.

Sannes, Detail
Loie Sannes, Detail Native village precolonization

That evening, our opening night, about 40 people came through and saw the exhibit. We were in competition with the OS Fair so we could not expect much. The next day the title lettering of the exhibit was installed by one of the artists.

Entry wall to exhibit
Entry wall to exhibit, by Dani Miles

 

The art project went in surprising directions, to Science Fiction

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Jim Hargie, Native rocket to a new planet, the lighting sort of set a new mood to this piece.
Jim was inspired by this image, James Swan
Jim was inspired by this image from James Swan

To a very interesting arrangement of ethnographic information and art in these multimedia pieces.

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Joan English, the artist, with four piece arrangement

To traditional painting in this amazing piece.

Two canoes
Two canoes, artist- Dani Miles
James Swan, two canoes and a paddle
Inspired by James Swan, two canoes and a paddle

Joan English’s large original Pencil sketch, really a highlight of the exhibit,

Joan English
Kalapuya Woman, Joan English

and a new graphic representation of the original Indian Madonna

Red Madonna
Red Madonna by Gary Olsen-Hasek

 

inspired by Paul Kane’s original

Inspired by, Paul Kane Indian Madonna
Paul Kane, Indian Madonna

Incorporation of rustic wood with great detail and expression.

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Sam, Shasta Chief, Gary Herd

Inspired by  Eugene De Girardin’s original.

Sam, Shasta Chief, Eugene De Girardin
Sam, Shasta Chief, Eugene De Girardin, Grand Ronde Indian Reservation 1856

Speaking with some folks that were in the meeting room space we used, the anonymous group stated they met in that room every week and loved the exhibit.

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Gary Herd’s pieces

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And Brian, who did not characterize himself as an artist even submitted a few artistic pieces.

Plankhouse, Brian Jeanseau
Plankhouse, Brian Jeanseau, inspired by
Alfred Agate , Plankhouse at the Dalles, 1841
Alfred Agate , Plankhouse at the Dalles, 1841
Wood, Brian Jeanseau
Wood, Brian Jeanseau

The exhibit is in three sections spaced throughout the Ike [Box}, so come visit and take a look around. You might notice that I have not included the text panels. These are next to most pieces and include some commentary by both myself and the artist. The exhibit will be up for about two months and then we may have it travel elsewhere.

Gratuitous product placement
Gratuitous product placement
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2 thoughts on “Che-Halpam Amim |Land of the Santiam People [Exhibit]

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