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The most recent Journeying workshop I went to focused on the Summer Solstice – solar energy and the masculine principle that rules over the earth in mid-Summer, the time of the longest days and the shortest nights.  The workshops include shamanic journeying and are based in the Celtic tradition.  At the Summer Solstice, a battle takes place between the Holly King and the Oak King.  The Oak King is slain, giving way to the Holly King who will rule the year and seasons until the Winter Solstice.  In the Muscogee tradition, we have an important ceremonial game called afvcketv, or stickball.  On my journey I met two warriors engaged in battle.

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In the Journeying workshops, I always meet my Muscogee ancestors and I travel with my Muscogee animal guides, usually fuswv (bird) and locv (turtla).   We end the day with an artmaking session.  I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired and went out into the churchyard of the Quaker Meeting House where we were based for the day.  I found myself wandering amongst gravestones and thought about the burial places of people’s ancestors.  I recently traced my ancestral line back to theplacecalled Alabama, where my Upper Creek Muscogee ancestors come from.

I found a pile of branches and twigs and chose one shaped like a figure and like a river with tributaries.  I attached an ‘arm’ wrapping it with red thread and strengthened it with glue.  I found two little figures and placed them in his hands.  My Great Great Grandfather, Tecumseh Philips would have been about 10 years old when he walked to theplacecalled Oklahoma.  He carried our bloodline forward from his parents Pahos and Wiccie Philips; through his daughter, my Great Grandmother Melindy; her daughter and my father’s mother, my Grandmother  Mattie; his Great Grandson, my father Frank and his Great Granddaughter, me.  He brought us all forward through such a time of unimaginable loss.

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vculvke tate, ancestor. 49 cm.

 

I recently discovered an online petition created by elementary school kids in Massachusetts to have Andrew Jackson removed from the $20 bill.  This is something that I’ve been saying would be a very good idea, ever since I learned about the instrumental part the 7th US president played in the Removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from our ancestral homelands in what is now the Southeastern part of the United States.

On May 28, 1830, the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson. One of the Holocaust Butterflies I made in 2013 is of printed excerpts from Jackson’s 2nd Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1830 in which he outlines the Indian Removal Act, and images from the £20 bill.

Andrew Jackson butterfly 8" x 10" , printed on lokta paper.

Andrew Jackson butterfly
8″ x 10″ , printed on lokta paper.

And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal, but generous. He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States and mingle with their population. To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.
– Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson butterfly - detail

Andrew Jackson butterfly – detail

 

I’ve heard this idea  expressed many times in First Nations social media, but this is the first time from a more mainstream source.  I love the spirit and conviction of these young people.   Maybe what we really need is stalwart voices saying, ‘This is wrong and this is what to do about it!’

Sign the petition here

I belong to the Muscogee (Creek).  Our name for ourselves is Mvskoke.  The European settlers called us Creeks, because of our proximity to water.   We originally lived along the waterways in what are now the northern parts of Georgia and Alabama, before The Removals in the 1830’s.   My people lived beside water because water is the First Medicine.

I have a river-drifted stick with a very powerful presence.   I drilled a hole through it so that I can wear it around my neck.  This totem symbolises my connection to the Mvskoke and to the spirit of the river.

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It reminds me that I belong to the Muscogee and of the river of blood which flows through my veins.  My ancestors walked the Trail of Tears;  we lost our homeland and many of us lost our language and the Knowing of our traditional ways,  but the river of blood still flows through our veins.  A hidden river that carries our grief and our memories, our hopes and our dreams.  The river has carried me to where I am.  I carry our story into the world, through my words and my art work.  I have been learning about my ancestors, our history and contemporary life in the 21st century, as well as the Muscogee language.  Hvcce poyvfekcv means ‘river spirit/soul/ghost’ , pronounced /hácci poyafíkca/.

Today I set my easel up and got out my (mostly grey) chalk pastels to draw my river totem.

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It was so fascinating to really look at it and follow the shapes and patterns with my eyes and to try to capture their fluency on paper.

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A magnifying glass helped . . .

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It looks a bit like a person, or an animal.  Perhaps it has something of the shape-shifter and Trickster Rabbit, Chufi.

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Hvcce poyvfekcv – river spirit, 38 x 69cm

The word totem comes from the Ojibway word dodaem and means “brother/sister kin”. It is the archetypal symbol, animal or plant of hereditary clan affiliations. People from the same clan have the same clan totem and are considered immediate family.  The Ojibway scholar Basil H. Johnston defines dodaem, or totem, as “that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being,”

Source :: wikipedia

Our local acting troupe, the  Moretonhampstead Variety Group, are presenting ‘Alice‘ this week, based on the well known tale by Lewis Carroll.  Their production will incorporate the Moorland Museum of Improbable Objects.  Opened in 1892 by Sir William Frederick Danvers Smith, later Lord Hambleden, the Moorland Museum of Improbable Objects was considered an essential stopping-off point on any visit to the moor and played host to many of the most famous names in Victorian society.

Shaken by an undisclosed scandal in 1898, the museum closes under mysterious circumstances and Sir William Frederick Danvers Smith was never seen again. All that remained was a note, left on the door to the sealed doors to the museum, read by all but understood by nobody.

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Rediscovered by the town’s historical society, the doors to the museum will unsealed for ONE WEEK ONLY in February 2014, giving modern visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour its fantastical exhibits exactly as Lord Hambleden left them, a great artistic venture featuring artists from all corners of Moretonhampstead.

Naturally, I was honoured with an invitation to make a few items for the museum and have a great deal of fun letting my imagination run amok within the confines of the Victorian era to produce a few improbable objects for the exhibition.

One of these is a Bread and Butterfly, presented in a bell jar.

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“Its wings are thin slices of bread-and-butter,
with a crust as its body and a lump of sugar as its head”

Lepidoptera panis butyrum

Lepidoptera panis butyrum

Eadweard James Muybridge ( 1830 –  1904) was an English photographer known for his pioneering work on animal locomotion in 1877 and 1878, which used multiple cameras to capture motion in stop-motion photographs.

This electro-photographic investigation shows a series of consecutive images of a baboon running.

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Animal locomotion: Eadweard Muybridge.
Philadelphia : Photogravure Company of New York, 1887

I made two shadowboxes which can be lit from behind.  First, I lined up the images to correspond with the ‘windows’

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Then, I trialled the type of paper to print the images onto.

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Movement of the Unicorn, Eadweard Muybridge,
Animal Locomotion, Vol XIII, Unusual Animals, 1882

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Disappearance and Reappearance of the Cheshire Cat, Eadweard Muybridge,
Animal Locomotion, Vol XIII, Unusual Animals, 1882

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Disappearance and Reappearance of the Cheshire Cat – detail

We delivered these and two other pieces (which shall be divulged at a later date) to the Museum yesterday.

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If you are not fortunate enough to have procured tickets to see the performance of ‘Alice’ and tour the Museum of Improbable Objects, you can still check out some of the exhibits therein on the ‘Exhibits’ tab on the Museum’s website.

I am so grateful for my current ‘topside’ world of intimacy with my beloved, Home, satisfactory work, some sound real-time friends, all of which are all so nurturing and healing to my Soul. Because I am in this place, I am able to go consciously into the dark places which need my attention and care and the light of my awareness. To witness that which I would rather not look at, if I’m honest. It’s hard work and I sometimes wonder, ‘Why do I do it?’ while knowing that I couldn’t possibly make the choice not to.

I feel close to my ancestors at this thin time of the year, especially the Muscogee. Drawing on their tremendous strength and also feeling the incredible weight of our history. Too much for any of them to deal with, so it has been passed down to me. It’s heavy, a huge burden, but one that I gratefully receive. Just as I gratefully receive the life they have passed to me. I said ‘No thank you’ to the legacy of domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental health issues which was passed to me. I don’t know why I have this consciousness and drive towards wholeness and health, but am grateful for that as well.

I had a very heavy art-making session today. I started making ‘My Grandmother’s House’ which is part of my mixed-media re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood. My tale is ‘Little Red Stick’ about a Muscogee girl who belongs to the Wolf Clan and it is set during the Removals & Trail of Tears in the 1830’s.

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My Grandmother’s House, mixed media, work in progress.

There’s a lot in this about my personal coming of age story, my family of origin history and my Tribal history. It’s deep healing work for myself and for my ancestors and feels like a lot to carry sometimes.

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In the studio

I’m also simultaneously making an accordion book which tells the tale of Little Red Stick’s journey through the woods to her grandmother’s house.

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Little Red Stick, accordion book, paper, paint & pencil, work in progress.

I got to the part where she comes to the house, so I had to make it so I can find out what happens next.

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The journey continues . . . . . . . . .. .

Some more new work in my Illuminations collection are my rice paper lamps.  I’ve collaged a couple of them with posterized photographs printed onto rice paper and laminated onto the lamp.

Southbank Shawos Lamp - 22 x 116 cm

Suncast Shadows Lamp – 22 x 116 cm

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The Dark Heart of Summer Lamp – 22 x 116 cm

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The Dark Heart of Summer reflected in a mirror

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Detail

In the run up to Devon Open Studios, I took over our salon to work on my lamps.

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For my Swallows Lamp, I went back to my art quilt roots.  I machine appliqued and machine embroidered swallows, summer flowers and the sun onto a background of cotton organdie that I had painted light sky blue.

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After I had fused my textile designs onto the fabric, I got up very early one morning to stitch them into place, after a breakfast of tea and toast.  From my rooftop window, I could see the martens, swifts and swallows diving and skimming across the late summer sky as I worked.

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I used free motion machine embroidery to outline and embellish the shapes.  I also painted some background foliage behind the flowers.

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After I finished stitching, I fashioned the fabric into a sheath which fits neatly onto the lamp.

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Swallows Lamp, 22 x 116 cm

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I love how the light from within highlights the stitching.

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With all of my Illuminations, the light coming through the translucent fabric gives the piece a different quality.  They can be enjoyed as a three dimensional sculpture during the daytime.

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At night time, they inhabit the space in another way.

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Welcome to my world. Please note that all art, photography, and text are protected by copyright law. If you would like to use or publish any of my words or images, I would appreciate it if you ask my permission and give me credit. Thank you.

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