Locv – Earth Diver

Creation Story of the Muscogee (Creek) Indians

The first thing that happened,
Hesaketamese dreamed the world.

First World II, oil pastel

Hesaketamese drew a deep breath.
Hesaketamese exhaled
and breathed the world into being.
The world was nice enough and very round.

First World I, acrylic

Hesaketamese made Locv, the turtle.
She was first made and wise.


Locv could stand on the land.
She could go down into the water,
She could burrow into the earth with her strong legs,
She could disappear into her shell.

Locv – Earth Diver, acrylic, chalk and oil pastel

Hesaketamese made more animals and birds and insects.
But Hesaketamese was young and inexperienced.
There were too many creatures to fit upon the land.
Being first made, Locv helped the others
and let some of them ride on her back.
The animals and birds always had to find land
to stand upon.

They always had to move from place to place.
The water was very rude.
When the birds and creatures found a place to stand,
water came and they all had to go somewhere else.
The other thing was that the sky was
very misty and foggy and cloudy.
The sun shown above the haze
but the animals and birds and insects
couldn’t see clearly and bumped into one another
and kept getting lost

Locv helped the birds and animals and insects.
She carried some of them on her back.
Locv dove beneath the water.  She gathered mud
and swam back to the surface of the water.

Locv gave some mud to all of the birds
and animals and insects.
All of the creatures put their mud together
and made enough land
so that everybody had  place to stand.
All of the creatures knew where they belonged.

But it was still very foggy.
The animals and insects and the birds
could still not see.
The birds flew up above the fog and clouds.
They saw the sun and the clear blue sky.
The birds flew back down beneath the fog and clouds.
All of the birds flapped their wings.
They made a breeze which became a big wind.
The wind blew all of the fog and clouds away.
The wind dried the mud until it became the earth.

All of the birds and animals and insects
knew where they belonged.
Everyone found their place.
Bear, deer, turtle, bird, wind, rabbit.
Everyone knew their clan and their kinfolk.
The water knew where to flow and later on,
when the people came, they knew their clan.
They knew who they clinged to.

‘ēme aossetv emēkvnv’ (they came out from the earth) mushroom compost & pastel, 40 x 60 cm

All of the people built their villages
along the rivers that flowed through the land.

Six Towns Held by River Spirit, Needlefelt

 

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Franz Kline would know those marks

We’ve had a snowy couple of weekends here on Dartmoor.  We mostly stayed indoors in the warmth, looking out onto the snowy street and rooftops and beyond to what we could see of the hills.

We ventured out once to see if The Guardian had been delivered to Moretonhampstead.  Steve had the chance to wear his new Panama Jack snow boots, purchased a few years ago the last time we had snow.

One evening at dusk, I was lured out by mist from the Wray Valley spreading up out of the river valley and settling down over the fields outside of town.

Magpie

I stayed out until it was too cold to hold my camera, entranced by tire tracks.  Signs of people navigating their way in the snowy landscape.

I posted some of my photos on Facebook and my artist friend John Behm
wrote ‘Franz Kline would know those marks’.

Franz Kline, American Abstract Artist, 1910 – 1962

Mahoning, oil & paper on canvas, 1956, 204.2 × 255.3 cm

 

 

How I learned to be Indian

The first time I exhibited my art work about my Muscogee (Creek) heritage, I was shocked when someone said to me ‘You are so lucky to be part-Indian’.  I wish that I had the wherewithal to ask just what she meant.  The history of all indigenous people in the United States is marked by physical and cultural genocide, and land theft and we have all inherited a legacy of Historical Trauma and Unresolved Grief.

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s with a father who felt very ashamed about his Muscogee ancestry.  My dad Frank was born in 1919 to my Muscogee grandmother Mattie Davis.  His father Ted Schwakhofer was of Austrian-American heritage.  Both of my grandparents were 16 years old.  My grandfather had nothing to do with his son or the mother of his child.  All that my dad received from him was his surname.

My dad said that he could understand the Muskogee language, but never learned to speak it.  The White kids called him a ‘Half Breed’ and the Muscogee kids didn’t like him because he was part White.  From 1920 onward, Native American children in Oklahoma were educated in the mainstream school system, where they and all of the other pupils learned that Indians were ‘savages’, although my dad used to argue with his teachers about this.  My grandmother Mattie would have gone to a residential school where students were actively discouraged from speaking their native tongue by having their mouths washed out with soap, or worse.

My brother, sister and I grew up knowing we’re part-Indian, but not much more than that.  My dad used to get The Muscogee Nation News delivered to our house and letters from distant relatives in Oklahoma, but by and large, he’d cut himself off from his ancestry.  I grew up wearing my Muscogee heritage like a cloak of shame.

I’ve come back to working with fibre and textiles in the past several months.   I’ve been studying an inspiring book by textile artist Rosie James.   I took the plunge into a machine sewn portrait of my dad onto paper printed with the front page of The Muscogee Nation news from 1978.

I made a line drawing from a photograph and printed off some text to make a layout of the piece.

Then I put the front page into Photoshop and added some text directly onto the page.  It is too fine to embroider onto the paper.  I used a glue stick to attach a piece of cotton organdie to the back of the paper to stabilize it and keep it from ripping when I stitched the portrait.  Then I machine stitched directly onto the front of the paper.

This is how it looks from the back.  I had originally thought about stitching through the fabric onto the front of the paper so had traced the picture onto the cloth.  It gives an interesting effect which I may explore in later work.

Back

My Dad used to have The Muscogee Nation News delivered to our house in West Covina, California and kept them in a drawer.   He’d read them at the dining table, drinking a beer,  He’d say: “We’re part-Indian.  We’re Creek.  We’re one of the Five Civilized Tribes.”

Little Soft Thing

I’ve become a little soft thing over the past few weeks.  The last time I checked in to Inspiraculum, I was in the middle of my Yuletide hibernation.   Then in mid January I came down with a very persistent version of the flu.  I haven’t felt like doing much of anything and stayed in for much of the last month.

I did gently re-organize my studio.  No major changes, but I bought some new task lamps and shifted things around for more work surfaces and more efficient storage.

I also brought harmony to my threads, paper, art supplies, buttons and beads, which was most satisfying.  Not only the results, but I often found  the process very meditative and relaxing.

Before

After

Last night I returned to my Pilates class for the first time since December.   My instructor Candice has a lovely voice and interesting turns of phrase.  We are asked to be like ‘little clams’ or ‘a bird spreading it’s wings’.   We also use a ‘little soft thing’ to rest our heads upon.  I used my fleece jacket in the first few sessions, then went out and bought a small cushion once I knew that I would be continuing the class.

I made a cover for it on Sunday night.  I love birds and used some fabric that I had left over from making a clothes peg bag .

It feels good to be returning to the outside world once again.  On Sunday morning Steve and I went for a walk.  I felt the softening of Winter’s hold and the first balmy hints of Springtime.

Of course this is the time when the earth quickens with life.

There has been a lot stirring and coming to life deep within.  I am certainly looking forward to new growth and all that this year will bring.

The returning of the Light

Early this morning from our living room window, over the rooftops, I spied mist covered fields beneath a clear blue sky.

I pulled boots and a warm gilet over my pj’s and went out for a walk beyond my village and out into the countryside.

The only people out and about were the posties, some shop keepers, a few dog walkers and their charges.   I said to the greengrocer ‘Isn’t it quiet  .  .  .  .   but busy day today?’  He shook his head and said ‘Calm before the storm.’

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Steve and I are all set for the holidays.  We have a pretty relaxed and mellow time over Christmas.  We exchange heartfelt gifts and enjoy cooking and eating even more fabulous food than usual.  We did some final food and gift shopping yesterday in Exeter.  It was somewhat manic and I was glad to return home after a couple of hours in town.
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While I was walking down the lane I thought about Christmas. The seasonal films we’ve been watching – A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life –  are about finding the ‘true meaning’ of the Yuletide, usually the importance of friends, family and love for our fellows.  I also observe how so many people are focused on the materialism of the Christmas holiday and stressed out about needing to create the ‘perfect’ day.
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I wondered about what it would be like to completely strip back the gifts, cards and feasting. What would remain? Would there even be a holiday?

My thoughts went back to the time long before the legend about Jesus being the son of God was peddled and before the Bible was written.  What there always has been is the return of the light, the days drawing out and the turning of the year to fruition. We have always and still do depend upon this for our survival. Not just humans, but all life.
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This holiday, this Holy Day, celebrates the life force which animates every living thing. We gather together with our loved ones to remember that we are not alone. We feast on rich foods to nourish and sustain us through the darkest and leanest time of the year. And we light a candle to mark the returning of the light.
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