Sunday, July 4, 2010

Declaration of Tears / Trail of Independence

In the autumn of 2006, I had taken a job in Hopkinsville, a very small town in Southern Kentucky which lies along the route of The Trail of Tears. There's the National Trail of Tears Motor Route and Trail of Tears Park... kinda freaky stuff. As I walked and drove around the first few months in town, I kept getting visuals of blood-soaked soil under the asphalt and sidewalks and buildings. The typical modes of "memorializing" such a sad and terrible incident in human history (classic genocide) kinda put my head in a spin. At the time, I was trying to be very active politically and I wanted to memorialize the Native American culture in a way that didn't "use" them for a lack of a better term. I didn't want to represent them in a work for my OWN agendas or opinions (which even I'll admit are often extreme).

The Bush years really took their tole on me as a young politically-minded person. Bush is kinda like our Nixon, just a very very dumbed down version with a few false flag operations going on under his nose. A good friend of ours, Debbie Bohen, held candle-light vigils locally in Clarksville, TN (bordering Ft. Campbell, KY home of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army) every week for years during the (ongoing) U.S. invasion of Iraq. Debbie's bravery has always touched me from the moment I met her (thanks to an art exhibit I curated with Miranda Herrick at Alter Gallery). Debbie had these huge hand-made displays which tallied the numbers of Iraqi Citizens and American Troops wounded and killed which were updated every time you saw her. We put this display outside a few art exhibits around the time... and I have to say it makes your palms sweat to stand next to them in a military town with yellow ribbons on every other SUV and truck barreling down University Ave right past you. That summer before I moved to Hopkinsville, Debbie was handing out pocket-sized copies of the Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights at one of our political exhibits, We the People, at The Icehouse Cafe. We had a voter registration drive that day with Chris Lugo, the Green Party candidate addressing the audience. Looking back, it was one of the best exhibits I've curated.

Some months later, moved into a new (new to me... verrrrrrry old in reality) house in Hoptown, I was at the drawing table and running through my head what to process onto paper. My wandering mind took my nose into that pocket-sized Declaration of Independence. I read a few pages and began getting visuals again. Like a bolt of lightning (that's how all the good ideas come), the idea came to me to memorialize the Native American culture by drawing inspiration from their art! A few weeks later after a few trips to the library, I had researched much of the Native arts including Kachina dolls, masks, and totem poles. These works translated onto the pages of my copy of the Declaration of Independence. All the works are very small (pages are around five inches tall). I used purple ink for my outlines to avoid interfering with or destroying original text on the pages.


  1. I totally like your Trail of Tears Artwork, I am of Native American decent. Keep up the good works, I love Artwork of all kinds,especially from the heart like yours is.

  2. Thank you so much for all of our wonderful feedback. This was a very important series for me.


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