First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 64

PROFILE above Welcoming the New Dawn, 2018, graphite, ink, colored pencil, gold leaf on 1928 Evanston municipal ledger paper, 18 × 36 in. framed. opposite The Ancestors Are Watching, graphite, colored pencil, gold leaf on 1924 Evanston municipal ledger paper, 24 × 18 in. framed. What’s interesting about Australia is that in the Northern Territory in the Arnhem Land, in the homelands there, people can’t just wander into these communi- ties and start asking people questions or taking pictures or whatever. You have to have a permit from the people who live there to go and visit if that’s what you want to do. And because we were Indigenous artists and we were taking part in this, we had an inside connection. Our hosts still had to ask for permission for us to go in, but they were very welcoming. It was a really great experience. In a lot of your work, there’s a distortion of the individuals you depict. Can you talk about why do you that and why it’s important? My idea has kind of changed a little bit. At first, I did it because that was a thing I noticed a lot of artists did in the Lowbrow movement. They distorted the figures with giant heads and small bodies, that kind of thing, so I started doing that with photographs of Native people. But I quickly realized that this could be a metaphor for the distortions that are put upon us, the expectations that are put upon us as Native people. Now, I see it more like history being viewed through a lens or a filter, because the truth of history is not really known to us. We have some hints of what the truth might be—whatever it is, an idea, or somebody’s actions, or what they did—but we’ll never really know. It seems like when our oral traditions were more prevalent, there was more of a need to keep it truthful. But now, you know, with photographs and all these other things, the truth can be skewed and people’s motives don’t always have good inten- tions. People will distort the truth to their own advantage, so a lot of times in American history and society, they don’t tell the truth about us because they need to keep us oppressed. If we have all the rights to all of this land, if we all realize that and we all stand up, then there’s going to be a problem for the colonizer. 62 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM Just the simple act of distorting the figure kind of takes all of that into consider- ation. A lot of times when I’m drawing, I’m not exactly sure why I’m doing certain things; they just kind of happen. Other times, too, people will see things that I don’t always intend. And then they’ll ask, “Did you mean to do this because blah, blah, blah,” and I’m like, “Yeah, maybe I did!” [laughing]. I think that’s another thing, too: I truly believe that spirits do guide us in ways that we’re not aware of as it’s happening, but when you look back on it, you realize that there’s some cosmic force that’s letting these things happen. That all kind of came from just distorting the image. There’s also an element of my work where I will “mirror” an image and blend it together, and that’s a metaphor for being a person of mixed back- ground, but it’s also the old and the new … and importance is placed on what’s happening when those two things come together. You know, it’s creating a new image, it’s creating a new idea. CHRISPAPPAN.COM