Marshmellow Renovations 2015

The Marshmellow is my trusty 1968 Dodge Chinook Mobilodge which has been converted into my art studio. It's most recent transformation includes a new floor (which was desperately needed), built-in shelving and a fresh paint job. It feels much more spacious, clean and comfortable now.

Spring cleaning in the Marshmellow included painting over the brown paneling, making it a lot brighter inside. Yes - artists do need good light.
Enjoying the fresh appearance from the driver's seat
I had broken my foot at the same time the renovation was happening, so my family members helped keep the project on schedule by taking the lead in installing the linoleum tile flooring, I assisted where I could.
The floor is done!
With a classic vehicle like this one, upkeep is a constant necessity. I used to live in the Marshmellow, and after the birth of my children, decided it would make an ideal studio. I received a National Native Creative Development Grant in 2007 and 2008 to convert it into a workable space for art-making. It's equipped for doing painting and other 2D media, ceramics, silver-smithing, small-scale carving, and framing.
Clay artist Stevei Houkamau (Maori: Ngati Porou) standing in the door of the Marshmellow. June, 2015

This year's repairs and upgrades have improved the atmosphere inside, making it more conducive to the creative process than ever before!

Stone Person

This small stone face is made of canupa inyan, a stone sacred to Dakota people. It is the stone equivalent of our people. This button-sized piece depicts an ancestor's face emerging from the past, looking ahead into today, and beyond, into the future.

work in progress


Open Pit Gold Mine Vessel

Image courtesy of Washington State Historical Society
Raku-fired clay, gold leaf and pigment
15.25" x 15.5" x 5"

Open Pit Gold Mine Vessel came about from my journey to Aotearoa (New Zealand) for an Indigenous Artists' Gathering. During my flight, looking at the land below, I saw distinctive lines cut into the earth from open pit mine operations -- this was the same in the U.S. and the islands we flew over. Something Indigenous people have in common all over the world is the struggle to protect our ecosystems from harmful resource extraction that damage land and people. During the gathering, I slab-built, glazed and raku-fired this vessel. On the trip home to Washington, it broke into several pieces. Undeterred, I used re-purposed gold to highlight the cracks and mimic gold veins emerging from the rock. During this process, I learned about the Japanese method, kintsugi, the art of repairing pottery and the belief that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

This picture shows the piece being pulled, red-hot, from the shopping cart kiln after it has reached temperature and is about to be placed into a receptacle with wood shavings.
Open Pit Gold Mine Vessel pulled from the kiln by Manos Nathan and Eddie Daughton, picture taken by Hera Johns

The piece won "Best of Show" at the 2015 In the Spirit Exhibition at the Washington State History Museum and will be on display there until August 30th. It received some interest on this blog,
and was reviewed by the Arts and Culture editor in an article on the exhibition in the Tacoma News Tribune. The article stated, "Best in show, though, deservedly goes to Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate). Her “Open Pit Gold Mine Vessel” is a slow spiral of gray, raku-fired clay that descends like a hell-bent path down to an oozing black pool. Gold leaf drips like blood over the cracked edges — a Japanese technique of repairing broken pottery (kintsugi) that Genia discovered when her initial sculpture, inspired by open-cut mines, was damaged. The effect is precarious, gaping; a profound comment on the ecological and spiritual damage of such mines."

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article29873938.html#storylink=cpy


Visit to Astoria for "Uku Aotearoa" at Clatsop Community College

Here is the mask I created during the "Uku Aotearoa: The Spirit of Materials" workshops held at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon in May. The mask workshop was led by acclaimed Maori clay artists, Colleen Urlich and Dorothy Waetford. This form came to me during the workshop - it's called "Alien Invasive Species: Praying Mantis."

"Uku Aotearoa" was a remarkable week-long series of events hosting several Maori clay artists, referred to affectionately as 'muddies'. I had the pleasure and honor of getting to know these fantastic artists during last year's International Indigenous Artist Gathering Kokiri Putahi in Kaikohe, New Zealand, so was thrilled at the opportunity to see them again. The event was expertly organized by CCC faculty Richard Rowland (Kanaka Maoli), one of our fellow muddies from the gathering, and was an excellent combination of workshops, presentations, demonstrations and events that brought new and old friends together within the beautiful community of Astoria.

The opening night of the "Uku Aotearoa" exhibition was a chance to see the masterful works of Bay Riddell, Colleen Urlich, Dorothy Waetford, Rhonda Halliday, Carla Ruka and Todd Douglas. Featured in this picture are also glaze master Karuna Douglas and kiln & firing expert Eddie Daughton.
The artist-led workshops included a variety of techniques, and one of those was the creation and firing of a paper kiln. I created a couple pieces in advance of the workshop so they would be bone-dry and ready for firing in the paper kiln. Here they are as they are being loaded, the kiln was built up around the pieces stacked on shelving.

Using wood, old newspapers and liquid clay, a conical structure was built around the loaded kiln shelves.

The kiln burned all night. The next day, after cooling, pieces were ready:
 I'm thankful for the inspiring energy created at "Uku Aotearoa," which still seems to reverberate, for the opportunity to see dear friends who live far away, and to forge new bonds in creativity!

A foggy morning looking across the Columbia River in Astoria, pier 39

Fish Made for "Swimming Together" Workshop

Transformation Fish
Micaceous Clay and slip
19” x 7” x 3” 

In February 2015, the "Swimming Together" workshop, led by Tewa artist Nora Naranjo Morse for the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center brought together several indigenous artists to create a school of fish for the Indigenous Arts Campus at the Evergreen State College. Nora Naranjo Morse is a wonderful artist and thinker, she is well known for her outdoor earthen site-specific piece at the the National Museum of the American Indian called, "Always Becoming."

Nora's idea for the workshop centered around each artist's stories about fish - a memory from childhood, a story someone told them about fish. She hand gathered the most amazing micaceous clay from Taos Pueblo in the traditional way which we used for the fish. The fish were coil built and finished with burnishing, sanding and slip. I created two fish for the school, one called "Transformation Fish." Here are some images of the process of making the fish.


Here is the artist statement for "Transformation Fish": 

This piece depicts a scene from a story I once heard but can’t remember. It depicts the moment a man transforms into a fish, a pickerel. Here, he is changing into a fish, and he is speaking to his friend. His head is still human and his body has already become that of a pickerel. It’s a cautionary tale, but the lesson has escaped me. This work is about stories, remembering stories, forgetting stories, never knowing the story. The story is a metaphor for my culture. The fish was sculpted in three separate parts to show the disconnection I often feel from my own culture, as one who lives and was raised far from my home, as one who is a product of assimilation. Creating this piece is helping me find the story so I can remember it.

Transformation Fish will be installed with the rest of the school of fish on the Indigenous Arts Campus, but before the installation, it was accepted at the 2015 "In the Spirit" exhibition at The Washington State History Museum. I built a light box to display it, since it is extremely delicate.

The second fish I made was a small unnamed pickerel, which I created to learn more about the coiling process and for pure enjoyment of the materials:

 It was an honor to participate in this workshop with a such a wonderful group of Native artists! Thanks very much to the Longhouse and to Nora for making this exciting workshop happen.


Transformation Thunderbird

Transformation Thunderbird is a piece that was developed and executed collaboratively by Tina Kuckkahn-Miller (Ojibwe), Director of the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at The Evergreen State College, Laura Grabhorn (Tlingit/ Haida), Longhouse Assistant Director, Linley Logan (Seneca), Longhouse Northwest Heritage Programs Director, and myself, Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota) Longhouse Program Coordinator in 2014. It is made of wool felt, dentalium, mother of pearl, copper jingles, fabric, ribbon, glazed ceramic, plaster of paris and wood pulp, acrylic, cedar, pipestone, and hematite. 
Here is our artist's statement: Transformation Thunderbird is a collaboration of the staff team of The Evergreen State College Longhouse. In addition to being the iconic representation of the Longhouse itself, the Thunderbird is a part of each of our cultures. Thunder comes from the wings of the Dakota Wakinyan, and their piercing eyes shoot lightning – inlaid pipestone conveys that our vision is guided by the people. The copper jingles represent healing and the seven teachings of the Anishinaabe: Truth, Humility, Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery and Honesty. The button robe is traditionally a garment that tells others what family the wearer is from. In this instance the robe represents many people and multiple connections we have at the Longhouse and across the Pacific. The waves represent the ocean connecting indigenous cultures along the Pacific Rim. Transformation is innate to an Indigenous world view, and this piece embraces the transformation and growth of relationships over time. 
This piece was exhibited at the biennial Maori Market in Wellington, New Zealand in November of 2014. It also appeared in the exhibition, "Building for the Future" at the Evergreen Gallery in Winter 2015, and is now a part of the permanent collection at the Evergreen State College Longhouse.

"Transformation Thunderbird" is now being installed at the Washington State History Museum for the annual juried show, "In the Spirit: Contemporary Northwest Native Arts Exhibition" where it will be on view this summer.