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.