Monday, May 24, 2010


Unpacking is such a useful terminology for visual actions.-
Here is a woman who recently won an award/grant to study indigenous ceremonial coats talking about them on the School for advanced researches website.

“I want to ‘unpack’ these profoundly beautiful garments, to better understand the cultural memory encoded within them,” she says. “By combining linguistic memory, visual analysis, archival research, and the knowledge embedded within the coats themselves, a more complete history can be teased out.” Racette has found references to the coats in a variety of archival sources, including those of Hudson’s Bay Company, which controlled the fur trade in much of North America for several centuries. Many of those traders married indigenous women and forged intricate relationships with the M├ętis and First Nations peoples. Traditionally, women made and embellished garments for men, notes Racette. “The coats present an opportunity to explore the complex social networks that emerged during the fur trade, and the male body as a site for female artistic expression.”

Another research strategy involves connecting with indigenous community knowledge through stories, beliefs, and practices, including linguistic memory. “Language remembers when we forget,” says Racette. Drawing on her multi-faceted network of scholars, Cree speakers, elders, and artists who continue to work with large animal hides and porcupine quill, she has assembled a trove of information about the mesmerizing coats, and has begun to analyze the possible meanings of their iconography, construction, and history. One of her major goals is to make both half-sized and full-sized models of the coats, and take them back to the communities to see what memories they might trigger.

The exercise of replicating the coats also opens the possibility of reclaiming the knowledge held in each stage of production from tanning the hides, to assembling and tailoring the garment, to the painting and quillwork. “It’s a form of repatriation,” said Racette. “We may not be able to get the coats back, but the reason they are so valuable is that they represent what we have forgotten and what we have lost. Although the historical significance of the objects is irreplaceable, they become less precious if we have the capacity to create them again.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 12:00–1:00 pm

Break and Enter: Indigenous Research in the Houses of History
Sherry Farrell Racette, Associate Professor, Department of Native Studies, University of Manitoba, and Anne Ray Resident Scholar

Sponsored by Anne Ray Charitable Trust.

I have reproduced a few paintings by"masters" and you really get to know the makers through this step by step. One piece in particular was a study of Fairfield Porter. I did a copy of his Broadway and 12th st. study and ended up visiting N.Y. within a month of painting it. I got to stand in the exact spot it was painted. When I think of this experience to this day I have new realizations. For one he was a painter in "Union" square. The argument has been made that the U.S. really wanted to pull artist away from unions/socialism culturally, hence the promotion of Modernism, also he was right across the street from the strand book store, Barnes and Noble just a few blocks away. I think I am still"Unpacking" that image.

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St. Augustine, Florida, United States
I spill ink ,it collects here.