Craft in America

S12 E1201 | FULL EPISODE

STORYTELLERS episode

Featuring sculptor George Rodriguez, the Art to Wear movement with Julie Schafler Dale and textile artist Linda J. Mendelson, multimedia works by Nicholas Galanin, and glass artist Christina Bothwell.

AIRED: December 11, 2020 | 0:54:36
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

CHRISTINA: I AM A STORYTELLER.

IF SOMETHING REALLY TOUCHES ME, I HAVE TO PROCESS IT

BY DOING A PIECE.

MY PIECES, THEY'RE NOT PRISTINE.

OOPS.

BUT I FEEL LIKE THAT'S MY ENERGY IN THERE.

IT'S PART OF WHAT MAKES MY WORK ME.

GEORGE: AS I MAKE THE WORK, I EMBED IT

WITH THE STORY THAT I WANT TO TELL.

THE STORY THAT I'M CREATING IS BETWEEN THE VIEWER

AND THE SCULPTURE.

IT REALLY IS THIS NARRATIVE THAT THEY CREATE.

I WANT TO KEEP PLAYING WITH DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS,

DIFFERENT CULTURES.

LIKE MOST THINGS, IT'S ONGOING.

NICHOLAS: WE COME FROM ORAL HISTORY.

OUR HISTORIES WERE SHARED ORALLY AND PASSED ON,

AND THEY CONTINUALLY ARE STILL.

COLONIZATION KEPT US IN CONTAINERS AND BOXES.

AN "INDIAN" PETROGLYPH.

WE ARE SEEING A SOVEREIGN RECLAMATION OF POWER AND SPACE,

"OUR WORK WILL LOOK LIKE THIS IF IT NEEDS TO,

OUR CONVERSATIONS WILL GO HERE IF THEY NEED TO."

WE GET TO DO WHATEVER WE WANT.

JULIE: OBJECTS THAT YOU COULD WEAR, BEAUTIFUL OBJECTS.

THEY ENCODE STORIES

AND REFLECT THE WORLD IN WHICH THEY FUNCTION.

THOSE STORIES ARE SO INTENSELY PERSONAL.

YOU CAN FEEL THE HUMAN HEART BEATING.

IT'S THE MERGER OF ART AND LIFE.

CAPTIONING MADE POSSIBLE BY CRAFT IN AMERICA, INC.

GEORGE: I MAKE SCULPTURAL WORK,

AND MY PREFERRED MATERIAL IS CERAMICS.

I CALL MYSELF A SCULPTOR. I ALSO CALL MYSELF AN ARTIST.

I CALL MYSELF A POTTER SOMETIMES.

AS I MAKE THE WORK, I EMBED IT

WITH THE STORY THAT I WANT TO TELL.

THE STORY THAT I'M CREATING IS BETWEEN THE VIEWER

AND THE SCULPTURE.

IT REALLY IS THIS NARRATIVE THAT THEY CREATE.

THE OBJECT COMES WITH SOME BACKGROUND,

BUT THEN THE CONTINUATION OF THE STORY IS HOW PEOPLE APPROACH IT

AND WHAT THAT CONVERSATION IS.

PHEN: THERE IS AN INTERACTIVE QUALITY

TO GEORGE RODRIGUEZ'S WORK.

YOU END UP LOOKING INTO THE EYES OF THESE CERAMICS.

THERE'S AN IMPARTING OF KNOWLEDGE THAT COMES

FROM INTERACTING WITH HIS PIECES.

THEY GIVE YOU A QUIET UNDERSTANDING.

GEORGE: MY PREFERRED CLAY IS STONEWARE.

IT'S JUST VERY SANDY AND MALLEABLE,

AND THE TACTILE QUALITY OF IT I FIND REALLY INTRIGUING.

I'M USING A CONE SIX CALLED OREGON RED.

IT'S MADE BY A LOCAL MANUFACTURER.

THIS CLAY I REALLY LIKE BECAUSE OF THE COLORATION.

I LIKE TO LEAVE AN OPENING AT THE TOP BECAUSE THEN

I CAN REACH IN AND REALLY MANIPULATE THE OBJECT

FROM THE INTERIOR.

I NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT I COUNTERSUPPORT

AS I'M WRESTLING THE SCULPTURE.

I LOVE WORKING LARGE SCALE.

THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY EXCITING ABOUT

FIGURING OUT HOW TO MAKE A SCULPTURE STAND ON ITS OWN

AT THAT SIZE.

JUST THE ENGINEERING.

I THINK MY SCULPTURES, EVEN THOUGH THEY'RE CONTEMPORARY,

THERE IS A MYTHICAL, HISTORICAL ASPECT

TO THE WORK THAT I MAKE.

I GREW UP IN EL PASO, TEXAS,

WITH MY MOTHER AND MY FOUR OLDER SISTERS AND MY AUNT.

LIVING IN A HOUSE FULL OF WOMEN MADE ME BE ABLE TO SIT BACK

AND JUST LISTEN.

I LOVE TO LISTEN TO THEM TELL STORIES.

EL PASO'S A BORDER CITY

WITH CIUDAD JUAREZ,WHERE MY AUNTS AND UNCLES LIVED,

AND WE WOULD GO BACK AND VISIT.

YOU CAN REALLY FEEL THE MEXICAN CULTURE

JUST CROSSING THE BRIDGE.

"UNCLE SAM" IS A NINE-FOOT-TALL REPRESENTATION OF UNCLE SAM.

AND HE WAS INITIALLY MADE WITH ANOTHER SCULPTURE NEXT TO HIM,

"TIA CATRINA," WHICH IS A REPRESENTATION

OF THIS LARGE SKELETAL MEXICAN FIGURE.

I WANTED "UNCLE SAM" AND "TIA CATRINA"

TO REPRESENT ME AS A MEXICAN-AMERICAN,

AND ALSO TO REPRESENT THE BORDER OF EL PASO AND JUAREZ.

BOTH FIGURES ARE THE SAME HEIGHT,

BOTH OF THEM HAVE THE SAME PRESENCE,

BUT THEY COULDN'T BE MORE DIFFERENT.

THE COLORATION'S DIFFERENT, THE FEATURES ARE DIFFERENT,

BECAUSE THAT'S HOW I FEEL.

VERY DIFFERENT BUT ALSO

EQUAL REPRESENTATION OF BOTH CULTURES.

GREG: GEORGE RODRIGUEZ IS A BEAUTIFUL STORYTELLER.

HE WEAVES A LOT OF CULTURAL HERITAGE

AND ALSO CROSS-CULTURAL INFLUENCES IN HIS WORK.

GEORGE'S WORK HAS A STORY, AND IT HAS A HISTORY,

AND IT HAS A VERY GENTLE, BEAUTIFUL WAY

OF MAKING A POINT.

HERE AT THE BAINBRIDGE ISLAND MUSEUM OF ART,

ALSO KNOWN AS BIMA, WE HAVE THIS BEAUTIFUL

TWO-STORY BEACON WINDOW GALLERY,WHICH FACES THE MAIN CORNER HERE

ON BAINBRIDGE ISLAND.

WE DECIDED TO PUT THIS 100-INCH-TALL "UNCLE SAM"

WITH A VERY FORLORN FACE IN THIS WINDOW ON A PLATFORM BOX,

SO IT WAS RAISED UP.

SO, OF COURSE, THE PHONE CALLSAND THE EMAILS START POURING IN,

LIKE, "WHAT'S THAT ALL ABOUT?"

EVERYBODY HAD THEIR IDEAAND THIS REACTION TO THIS PIECE,

SO IT BECAME VERY, VERY POWERFUL.

I DON'T THINK WE'VE HAD AS MANY REACTIONS

TO ANY SCULPTURE INSTALLATION SINCE WE OPENED BIMA.

GEORGE: I'VE ALWAYS MADE WORK THAT IS PERSONAL

AND SOMEWHAT JOURNALISTIC.

I WANTED TO TELL A STORY OF WHO I WAS.

MY WORK IS ME TRYING TO EXPRESS MY IDENTITY,

WHICH IS ALWAYS EVOLVING.

I REFER TO MY DRAWINGS A LOT WHEN I'M SCULPTING.

IT HELPS ME KEEP THE PROPORTIONS.

I START WITH A MOLD JUST OF A HUMAN HEAD.

AND I FEEL LIKE HAVING A HUMAN HEAD

KEEPS SOME HUMAN EMOTION INTO THE PIECE.

FOR AN ANIMAL THAT HAS A LONG SNOUT, LIKE THIS BOAR,

I TEND TO JUST CUT THE NOSE OUT AND THEN BRING IT OUT,

AND IT JUST MAKES ME LAUGH EVERY TIME I PUT IT ON THE END.

IT'S JUST TO HAVE A HUMAN NOSE ON THE END OF A SNOUT,

I FIND VERY FUNNY.

MY SCULPTURES SPEAK TO ME.

WE'RE NOT HAVING A CONVERSATION,

AND WE'RE NOT TALKING TO EACH OTHER,

BUT THERE IS A DIALOGUE THAT'S HAPPENING.

THE SCULPTURES ARE TELLING ME WHAT THEY NEED TO BE

A PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION IN THIS PLACE.

I TRY AND BRING LIFE INTO MY WORK, SPECIFICALLY IN THE EYES.

A LOT OF THE EXPRESSION COMES FROM THE WAY

THAT THE SCULPTURES GAZE.

THE CLAY WILL SHOW AN EXPRESSION,

AND THEN I CAN LEAN INTO IT.

I REALLY LOVE THIS POSE BECAUSE IT'S KIND OF A SEDUCTIVE POSE,

BUT THEN IT COULD ALSO BE LIKE AN INJURY,

AND YOU CAN'T MOVE YOUR HIND LEG.

SO THERE'S A LOT OF LAYERS.

I WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS IN EL PASO, UTEP.

I STARTED PURSUING A GRAPHIC DESIGN DEGREE

BECAUSE AS THE FIRST PERSON IN MY FAMILY TO GO TO COLLEGE,

I WANTED TO COME OUT WITH THE PROSPECTS OF A JOB.

AT UTEP, WE WERE REQUIRED TO TAKE INTRODUCTORY CLASSES.

AND I TOOK CERAMICS FIRST

JUST TO KIND OF GET IT OUT OF THE WAY.

I QUICKLY FOUND MYSELF SPENDING ALL OF MY TIME

IN THE CLAY STUDIO.

I MOVED TO SEATTLE FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL.

I WANTED TO STUDY WITH PEOPLE THAT I ADMIRED.

YOU COULD FEEL THE PRESENCE OF PATTI WARASHINA IN THE PROGRAM.

I WORK IN THE FIGURE, AND SHE DOES AS WELL.

AND IT WAS AN INSTANT CONNECTION.

I WAS ALSO VERY FORTUNATE TO STUDY WITH AKIO TAKAMORI.

HIS WORK TOLD STORIES AND HAD A WHOLE NARRATIVE

WITHIN THE SCULPTURAL FORM HE WAS MAKING.

IT'S WHAT I WANTED TO EMBODY MY WORK WITH,

THIS COMPLEX NARRATIVE.

I CREATED A SERIES OF FIGURES FROM MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES:

THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, THE BLACK COMMUNITY,

THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY.

I WANT MY WORK TO LITERALLY PUT THESE FIGURES ON A PEDESTAL

TO BE ADMIRED.

I WANT PEOPLE TO THINK ABOUT HOW WE ARE NOT ALONE

AND HOW WE INFLUENCE EACH OTHER.

WE ARE PART OF THIS WHOLE THAT

REALLY LEANS ON ONE ANOTHER.

THERE'S NOT ONE PERSON THAT'SNOT AFFECTED BY EVEN A STRANGER.

I STARTED USING THIS SPRIG-TYPE OF ORNAMENTATION,

WHICH IS THIS LOW RELIEF ON THE SURFACE OF MY SCULPTURES

AS A WAY TO MIMIC EMBROIDERY.

AND THEN THIS SMALL DECORATION STARTED TO ENGULF

AND ENVELOP AN ENTIRE BODY.

THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY POWERFUL ABOUT LOOKING AT

A SCULPTURE AND SEEING THIS TEXTURE AND COLORATION.

BUT AS YOU GET CLOSER,

IT REVEALS ITSELF AS SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

IT REALLY BRINGS THE VIEWER CLOSER.

I HAVE A LIBRARY OF ABOUT 145 PRESS MOLDS AND COUNTING,

AND MY PRESS MOLDS ARE JUST REALLY SIMPLE PLASTER MOLDS.

I WILL CHOOSE ORNAMENTATION THAT WILL SPEAK TO THE FORM.

SO FOR THIS WILD BOAR, I'M THINKING

IT'S A LITTLE BIT MORE WIRY,

SO I WANT A DECORATION THAT'S MORE POINTED.

LET'S SAY THIS WAS A SHEEP.

THEN MY DECORATION MIGHT BE A LITTLE BIT MORE CIRCULAR

SO I CAN CREATE THAT ILLUSION OF FLUFF.

LIZ: WHEN I FIRST MET GEORGE,

HE WAS STANDING ON THIS GIANT LADDER,

AND I WAS HANDING HIM A GIANT HEAD,

AND I WAS LIKE, "ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT ME TO HOLD THIS?"

HE'S LIKE, "YEAH. YOU GOT IT."

WE DO A LOT OF WORKING TOGETHER ON EACH PIECE.

IF HE NEEDS ANY PREP WORK DONE OR ANY SPRIGS MADE,

HE JUST PULLS OUT A NUMBER, AND I MAKE THEM.

HUNDREDS, USUALLY, AT A TIME.

HE JUST KIND OF GOES FOR IT.

GEORGE: THE SYMBOLISM AND ORNAMENTATION

THAT I BRING TO MY WORK, THEY ALL COME FROM SOMEWHERE.

I WAS REALLY FORTUNATE TO RECEIVE

A BONDERMAN TRAVEL FELLOWSHIP.

I SOLO TRAVELED TO 26 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES

IN THE SPAN OF 10 1/2 MONTHS.

I WAS REALLY A SPONGE, JUST ABSORBING AND ABSORBING.

IT REALLY GAVE ME AN UNDERSTANDING

OF HOW INTERCONNECTED WE ARE.

THERE'S CERTAIN IMAGERY THAT TRANSLATES THROUGH

DIFFERENT SPACES AND DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

IN MY ARTWORK, IT'S SHOWING UP AS THESE TETHERS THAT I'M

BRIDGING FROMDIFFERENT CULTURES INTO MY WORK.

SO JUST LIKE, PAINT ONE, SKIP ONE, PAINT ONE, SKIP ONE.

AND WE'LL DO THIS LIGHT BLUE.

LIZ: WE DO A LOT OF GLAZING.

IF IT'S A VERY COMPLICATED PATTERN,

WE CALL IT PAINTING BY NUMBERS BECAUSE HE'LL GO AND MARK

A SECTION SO THAT I CAN SEE WHAT HE'S THINKING.

GEORGE: THE COLOR JUST BRINGS

A LITTLE BIT OF DEPTH AND DIMENSION TO IT.

MAYBE I'M A CERAMIC PURIST AT HEART,

BECAUSE INSTEAD OF USING PAINT,

I LIKE TO GLAZE, UNDERGLAZE, AND FIRE.

I START WITH A BLACK WASH OVER THE ENTIRE PIECE.

THE BLACK REALLY GETS INTO ALL OF THE TEXTURE,

ALL OF THE CREVICES, AND IT JUST MAKES THE DECORATION POP

A LITTLE BIT MORE.

IT ALSO GIVES IT A MORE ANTIQUED OR ANCIENT FEEL TO IT.

I WANT TO PRESENT

SOMETIMES VERY DIFFICULT TOPICS IN MY SCULPTURE,

AND SOMETIMES THE EASIEST ENTRY POINT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION

IS A SMILE.

PHEN: I LOVE THAT PIGEON.

THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY SYMPATHETIC ABOUT THIS PIGEON

AND ITS BELLYBUTTON. GEORGE: YEAH.

PHEN: "URBAN GUARDIANS" IS SHOWING A NUMBER OF BODIES

AND THEN A NUMBER OF HEADS.

ALL OF THE HEADS CAN BE USED ON ANY ONE OF THE BODIES.

GEORGE: I WANT PEOPLE TO INTERACT WITH THE ARTWORK.

IF YOU GET TO MAKE THE DECISION, THEN YOU ARE MORE INVESTED.

AND, HOPEFULLY, SOME OF THOSE THINGS CAN REVEAL THEMSELVES

WITH THE MORE TIME YOU SPEND.

PHEN: PEOPLE ARE REALLY ENJOYING PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER.

THEY'RE REALLY NERVOUS ABOUT IT, THOUGH.

[PHEN LAUGHS]

GEORGE: I BET, I BET. PHEN: YEAH.

GEORGE: I HOPE THAT WHEN PEOPLE APPROACH MY WORK, THEY SMILE.

I WANT PEOPLE TO COME IN SMILING,

AND I WANT THEM TO LEAVE WITH A LITTLE BIT MORE UNDERSTANDING

OF THE STORY THAT I'M CREATING.

I WANT TO KEEP PLAYING WITH DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS,

DIFFERENT CULTURES.

LIKE MOST THINGS, IT'S ONGOING, RIGHT? SO...

THE SCULPTURES DO TELL ME, LIKE,

"THIS IS WHAT I AM," "THIS IS HOW I WANT TO EXIST."

THEY START AS NOTHING.

THEY START AS, LIKE,

JUST A BLOCK OF EARTH, A BLOCK OF CLAY,

AND THEN THEY TRANSFORM.

WHEN IT'S RIGHT, IT IS THIS KIND OF FEELING, LIKE,

"OK, WE'RE GOOD. LEAVE ME ALONE NOW."

[CHUCKLES]

JULIE: "ART TO WEAR" WAS BORN

IN THE SPIRIT OF RADICAL CHANGE AND CHALLENGE

AND THIS NEED FOR SELF-EXPRESSION.

IT WAS A NEW ART FORM THAT USED THE BODY AS A CANVAS

TO ANIMATE PERSONAL IMAGERY.

YES, IT IS WEARABLE, BUT IT IS NOT FASHION.

YES, THERE'S PROCESS,

BUT IT'S NOT PROCESS WITHOUT CONCEPT.

IT'S THE MERGER OF ART AND LIFE.

THESE PIECES ARE TRULY STORYTELLERS.

SOMETIMES THE STORY IS TOLD

THROUGH NARRATIVE,

AND SOMETIMES IT'S TOLD METAPHORICALLY OR ABSTRACTLY

THROUGH PROCESS.

THE WORKS ARE INDIVIDUAL EXPRESSIONS

OF PEOPLE'S EXPERIENCES--

THEIR HUMAN EXPERIENCES AND THEIR HUMAN STORIES.

DILYS: MOST OF THESE WORKS TOOK A GOOD YEAR OR MORE TO CREATE

AND BECAME SO IMBUED WITH THE ARTIST'S OWN EXPERIENCES

THAT THEY HAVE A RESONANCE THAT IS VERY EMOTIONAL.

JULIE: THERE WAS A DIALOGUE BETWEEN

THESE DISPARATE ARTISTS LIVING ALL OVER THE COUNTRY

WHO HAD FOUND THEIR WAY TO THE SAME FORM OF EXPRESSION.

IT WAS THE NON-ELITIST, ANTIESTABLISHMENT IDEA

OF GETTING ART OFF THE WALLS, ONTO THE STREETS

IN A PARTICIPATORY MANNER.

OFTEN THE PIECES ARE CONCEIVED TWO-DIMENSIONALLY FIRST.

AND THEN THE TWO-DIMENSIONAL FORMS ARE PLACED ON THE BODY,

AND THEIR GRAPHIC QUALITY CHANGES.

AS THE BODY MOVES,

THE PIECE IS ANIMATED.

YOU'RE DEALING WITH TWO-DIMENSIONAL TAPESTRY,

THREE-DIMENSIONAL SCULPTURE,

AND THEN YOU'RE DEALING

WITH A KINETIC ART FORM.

IT'S A TRIPLE THREAT.

THE OBSESSIVE NATURE OF THE HANDWORK.

IT IS AS ORGANIC, I WOULD SAY, AS THE CROCHETWORK.

AND IT GREW IN THAT SAME ORGANIC WAY.

THE KIMONO PLAYED A TREMENDOUSLY IMPORTANT ROLE

IN THE ART TO WEAR MOVEMENT.

THE KIMONO OFFERED

A BROAD, FLAT GRAPHIC SURFACE

ON WHICH PEOPLE CAN PRESENT THEIR IMAGERY.

IT LENT ITSELF

TO TWO-DIMENSIONAL PRESENTATION,

WHICH IS ART BACK ON THE WALL,

BUT IT DIMINISHED THE DISTANCE BETWEEN

THE TRADITIONAL PRESENTATION OF FINE ART AND CRAFT.

DILYS: MANY OF THE YOUNG ARTISTS IN THE ART TO WEAR MOVEMENT

ATTENDED PRATT.

AND AT PRATT, STUDENTS STARTED EXPERIMENTING

WITH DIFFERENT MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES.

THERE WAS A GROUP OF FIVE STUDENTS WHO STARTED USING

THE CROCHET TECHNIQUE FOR ALL OF THEIR ART CLASSES.

JULIE: THE GROUP OF FIVE WAS JEAN CACICEDO,

DINA KNAPP,

MARIKA CONTOMPASIS,

SHARRON HEDGES,

AND JANET LIPKIN.

EACH OF THEIR VOICES IS VERY INDEPENDENT AND DIFFERENT.

FOR SHARRON, COMING OUT OF A WELDING BACKGROUND,

WORKING WITH THE CROCHET ENABLED HER TO PARTICIPATE

IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS

IN A VERY INTIMATE AND PERSONAL WAY.

ART TO WEAR IS ABOUT CONTENT, AND IT'S ABOUT PROCESS.

AND IT'S ABOUT THE INNOVATION OF PROCESS.

ONE PIECE DRIVES TO THE NEXT PIECE.

THE EARLY WORK WAS VERY SENSUAL.

IT WAS VERY TRANSFORMATIVE

OF THE HUMAN BODY.

AND THEN THE THEMES GREW TO REFLECT

THE CONCERNS OF THE TIMES.

MARIO'S "OVERDONE JACKET"

REFLECTS HIS CONCERN WITH SUSTAINABILITY.

MARIO USED ALL FOUND, USED, ABUSED, AND RECYCLED OBJECTS.

ANA LISA HEDSTROM DEALT

WITH THE ISSUE OF HABITAT AND SPECIES EXTINCTION.

THE AREAS OF BROWN REFLECT THE OIL SPILLS.

THE WHITE AND BLUE AREAS REFLECT THE OCEAN AND THE FOAM.

THE ART TO WEAR MOVEMENT IS KALEIDOSCOPIC,

AND IT'S AS DIVERSE AS THE PEOPLE WHO CREATED THE WORKS.

THEIR STORIES ARE SO INTENSELY PERSONAL.

YOU CAN ALMOST PALPABLY FEEL

THE HUMAN HEART BEATING.

MELISSA: JULIE SCHAFLER DALE UNDERSTOOD THAT

WHAT THESE CREATORS NEEDED WAS A GALLERY.

SHE WAS THESE ARTISTS' CHAMPION.

SHE REALLY WANTED THE ONE-OF-A-KIND,

THE IMPORTANT PIECES THAT HAD MAJOR CONTENT

AND REALLY HAD PRESENCE.

JULIE: I OPENED JULIE ARTISANS' GALLERY IN 1973.

THE WORK WAS RADICAL. IT DIDN'T REALLY HAVE A PRECEDENT.

SO I KNEW THAT IF I COULD SITUATE THE GALLERY

SO THAT CLIENTS WOULD CONTEXTUALIZE

THESE UNFAMILIAR PIECES WITHIN THE BEST OF CREATIVE NEW YORK,

SO THAT MEANT AT THAT TIME, MADISON AVENUE.

EVERYBODY IN NEW YORK INEVITABLY PASSED BY,

AND, INDEED, THAT'S HOW I MET MY HUSBAND.

WHAT WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME

WAS THE VOICE OF THE ARTISTS.

SO WHEN I WAS DOING THE BOOK,

THE TEXT IS AS MANY OF THE ARTISTS' WORDS AS POSSIBLE,

LETTING THEM TALK TO US ABOUT WHAT THEY MEANT,

WHY THEY DID IT, WHAT WERE THE STORIES.

JIM READING: "ONE OF THE THINGS I SEE IN MY WORK IS THAT

"EVERY INCH OF IT IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING,

"THAT THERE ARE NO REPEATS, NO GIVENS, NOTHING CONSTANT.

"BUT EACH COLOR AND RELATIONSHIP OF COLOR IS MOVING.

"I AM A STORYTELLER WHEN I'M WEAVING,

"MOVING FROM ONE THING TO ANOTHER.

"I AM BUILDING A PLOT THAT WILL OFTEN WORK TO A CLIMAX,

A RESOLUTION, AND THEN THE PIECE IS OVER."

JULIE: WHEN YOU WEAR THE PIECES, IF IT'S RIGHT,

IF IT'S A GOOD FIT, NOT JUST PHYSICALLY BUT SPIRITUALLY,

AND IF THE SPIRITUAL FIT

IS CORRECT, IT WILL LOOK GOOD

BECAUSE YOU WILL FEEL GOOD.

WHEN YOU STAND IN FRONT OF SOMETHING

AND THE HAIRS GO UP ON THE BACK OF YOUR ARM,

YOU ARE HAVING A DIALOGUE WITH THE PIECE.

YOU ARE RESPONDING TO SOME KIND OF AN INNER HEARTBEAT.

LINDA MENDELSON WORKS WITH COLOR AND TEXT

IN DIALOGUE WITH EACH OTHER ON THE KNITTING LOOM.

LINDA: WELL, I HAD ALL THE VARIOUS FACETS OF NATURE,

HEAVEN, EARTH, FOLIAGE, ANIMALS.

JULIE: LINDA'S DEFINING VOICE HAS IN MANY WAYS

REPRESENTED THE GALLERY.

IN YOU WALKED IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY SATURDAY AFTERNOON...

[LINDA CHUCKLING]

WITH YOUR, PROBABLY A GARBAGE BAG.

LINDA: WELL, I UNFURLED THIS COAT THAT I HAD MADE.

THE OUTSIDE WAS A POEM BY E.E. CUMMINGS,

WHICH I HAD CHOSEN BECAUSE IT WAS A SHAPE POEM.

JULIE: WHEN YOU TOOK THAT COAT OUT OF THE BAG,

I JUST LOOKED AT IT, AND I KNEW IT EMBODIED

EVERYTHING THAT I WAS LOOKING FOR--

HAVING SPIRIT AND EMOTIONALITY, BEING VISUALLY INNOVATIVE,

AND YET SOMETHING YOU COULD WEAR. BINGO.

IT JUST HIT THE JACKPOT.

LINDA: AND I ASKED YOU WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE OF MINE.

AND YOU SAID, "ANYTHING YOU MAKE, I'LL TAKE."

JULIE: YES. LINDA: THAT'S ENCOURAGEMENT.

JULIE FOSTERED THE WORK OF ARTISTS.

SHE WAS VERY ENCOURAGING.

SHE JUST WAS ABLE TO GET

ALL THESE VARIOUS, DISPARATE GROUPS TOGETHER

AND LITERALLY MAKE A MOVEMENT OUT OF IT.

JULIE: LINDA MENDELSON WAS ONE OF THE ARTISTS

WHO SUCCEEDED IN DOING WORK THAT WAS VIABLE

ON SOME LEVEL OF COMMERCIAL

AND ALSO ONE-OF-A-KIND MASTERPIECES

ALL THE WHILE STAYING TRUE

TO HER ARTISTIC IDENTITY.

WE HAVE THE KAWARA CARDIGAN.

LINDA: THIS IS A VERY LABOR-INTENSIVE PROCESS.

STRIPS ARE KNITTED ON THE MACHINE,

AND THEN WITH AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF HANDWORK, THEY'RE PRESSED

AND MANIPULATED INTO THIS SHAPE

AND THEN STABILIZED WITH INVISIBLE STITCHES.

THE ACTUAL KNITTED PIECE FOR THIS WOULD BE

ABOUT THREE TIMES AS LONG.

AND IT'S ALL THE FOLDING AND PLEATING THAT GETS IT

DOWN TO THIS SIZE.

AND IT WAS INSPIRED BY JAPANESE ROOF TILES.

JULIE: HOW DID YOU COME ONTHE IDEA OF JAPANESE ROOF TILES?

LINDA: JUST SOMETHING JUST GETS ME VISCERALLY WHEN I SEE IT.

THAT'S WHAT INSPIRATION IS TO ME. SOMETHING JUST HITS.

MOST OF MY WORK STARTS WITH BEING INFLUENCED

BY READING SOMETHING.

LIKE, IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL OR IT'S SO WONDERFUL

OR IT'S SO POWERFUL OR IT'S SO IMPORTANT,

AND I'D LIKE TO PRESERVE IT IN SOME WAY THAT'S VERY PERSONAL.

WEARING WORDS IS VERY PERSONAL.

IT'S LIKE SAYING, "THIS MESSAGE

MEANS SOMETHING TO ME."

IF I COULD TRANSMIT

THE SOURCE AND INFORMATION ANY OTHER WAY,

IT WOULD BE EQUALLY AS VALID, BUT I DO IT IN A WAY THAT

I'M CAPABLE OF DOING, WHICH IS MAKING

FIBER AND FABRIC INTO GARMENTS.

MY KNITTING PATTERNS I DESIGN MYSELF.

ALL MY PATTERNS WERE MADE OF ASSEMBLING STRIPS

AND RECTANGULAR SHAPES OF DIFFERENT SIZES.

KNITTING IS TOTALLY PREMEDITATED.

EVERYTHING IS PLANNED IN ADVANCE.

THERE IS NO SPONTANEITY.

NOTHING HAPPENS WITHOUT SOMETHING BEING PUNCHED,

SOMETHING DRAWN OUT, SOMETHING WRITTEN.

MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER WAS A DRESSMAKER,

AND SHE DID TEACH ME TO SEW.

SHE LIVED IN THE BRONX IN AN APARTMENT WITH MY AUNT LILY.

AUNT LILY WAS IN SHOW BUSINESS. SHE WAS VERY GLAMOROUS.

AND SHE'D LET ME DESIGN DRESSES FOR HER TO WEAR ONSTAGE.

WHEN SHE WAS 92, SHE WROTE A NOTE, ATTACHING IT

TO THIS WONDERFUL PHOTOGRAPH OF HER WEARING A DRESS

THAT I DESIGNED.

SHE WROTE, "WHEN LINDA WAS EIGHT,

"SHE DESIGNED THIS DRESS FOR ME.

"AND I ALWAYS KNEW SHE WAS DESTINED TO BECOME

A FAMOUS DESIGNER, AND SHE IS THAT TODAY."

I GOT JOY, AND ENCOURAGEMENT, WHICH WAS MARVELOUS.

IN COLLEGE, I GOT A BACHELOR OF FINE ARTS,

BUT THE COURSES THAT APPEALED TO ME WERE THE ONES RELATED

TO CRAFTS.

IT WASN'T UNTIL I SAW A KNITTING MACHINE IN A WINDOW

THAT ALL THESE THINGS COALESCED.

AFTER I GOT MY FIRST KNITTING MACHINE, I THOUGHT,

"WHY NOT PUNCH IN WORDS?"

IT JUST CAME TO ME ONE DAY OUT OF THE BLUE,

I WOULD LIKE TO SAY.

IT THEN EVOLVED INTO

SOMETHING THAT WAS CONTINUOUS.

IT ALL COMES FROM JUST BEING HIT IN THE RIGHT PLACE.

[SEWING MACHINE TAPPING]

NOW WITH WHAT I'M DOING, THE INSPIRATION IS EXPRESSED

MORE DIRECTLY BY SEWING.

IT'S COLOR UPON COLOR UPON COLOR, STITCH UPON STITCH.

AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT CAN ONLY HAPPEN AS YOU'RE DOING IT.

MY GOAL IS TO BE AS FREE AS JACKSON POLLOCK.

I SEW AN ALL-OVER RANDOM PATTERN.

ON TOP OF THAT, I THEN EMBROIDER

WHATEVER POEM I'M GOING TO EMBROIDER.

I TRY TO KEEP THE CURVES

LOVELY AND GRACEFUL AS POSSIBLE.

THIS IS VERY SLICK.

AND THEN TO GRAB IT SO YOU HAVE CONTROL,

THESE GLOVES HAVE LITTLE GRABBERS ON THE FINGERS,

SO THERE'S TRACTION HERE AND NONE HERE.

AND THAT'S ONE OF THE TRICKS OF DOING THIS.

AND I LEARNED THIS ALL ON YOUTUBE,

EVERY BIT OF IT.

[LINDA LAUGHS]

WHEN I CHOSE THE POEM ON MY VERY FIRST COAT,

I HAD NO IDEA THAT I WAS PREDICTING MY FUTURE.

THE POEM GOES:

"WHY DO THE FINGERS

"OF THE LITTLE ONCE BEAUTIFUL LADY

"(SITTING SEWING AT AN OPEN WINDOW THIS FINE MORNING)

FLY INSTEAD OF DANCING"...

"ARE THEY POSSIBLY AFRAID THAT LIFE IS RUNNING AWAY FROM THEM

"(I WONDER) OR ISN'T SHE AWARE THAT LIFE

"(WHO NEVER GROWS OLD) IS ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL

AND THAT NOBODY BEAUTIFUL EVER HURRIES".

NICHOLAS: I'VE SEEN MORE BEARS THIS YEAR THAN I'VE SEEN

IN A LONG TIME.

I SAW A MOTHER--MOM AND CUBS BACK THERE LAST TIME

AND A BIG MALE BEAR, TOO.

THEY'RE ALL WAITING FOR THE FISH TO RUN UP THE RIVER, SO...

I WAS BORN HERE IN SITKA.

SITKA IS THE TLINGIT NAME,

AND THE NAME NOW IS BARANOF.

THAT NAME SHOULD CHANGE BACK.

OUR PLACE NAMES HAVE IMPORTANCE.

AND THEY HAD USE AND THE RENAMING OF THEM.

IS ALL ACTIVELY IN LINE

WITH THAT ERASURE

OF INDIGENOUS HISTORIES,

INDIGENOUS PRESENCE,

INDIGENOUS LAND AND LANGUAGE.

WE COME FROM ORAL HISTORY.

OUR HISTORIES WERE SHARED ORALLY AND PASSED ON,

AND THEY CONTINUALLY ARE STILL.

ALL OF MY WORK DEALS WITH LANGUAGE,

WHETHER IT'S TLINGIT LANGUAGE

OR THE CULTURAL LANGUAGE OF OUR VISUAL ART.

IT'S A VERY ICONIC, POWERFUL,

VISUAL, ABSTRACT LANGUAGE

THAT'S DISTINCT TO OUR COMMUNITY

AS IT CONTINUALLY EVOLVES,

AND IT CONTINUES TO STILL TODAY.

[INDISTINCT SINGING ON SOUNDTRACK]

NICHOLAS: OFTENTIMES, IDENTITY FOR INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES

IS FROZEN IN THE PAST.

THERE IS THIS IDEA OF A TIME PERIOD OF PRE-CONTACT,

AND THAT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HEAVILY ROMANTICIZING

THIS NARRATIVE OF THE VANISHING INDIAN,

OR UPHOLDING US AS PEOPLES THAT ARE GONE AND NOT HERE.

THAT'S DAMAGING.

AN "INDIAN PETROGLYPH."

I THINK THIS IS, LIKE, 10 YEARS OLD, MAYBE?

I WAS OUT HERE FOR DAYS JUST CHIPPING AT IT.

THERE'S THESE IDEAS OF AUTHENTICITY

CULTURALLY SPEAKING.

WE ARE ONLY AUTHENTIC IF WE'RE VISUALLY FITTING THE BILL,

OR OUR WORK IS OR OUR MATERIAL OR OUR PROCESS OR OUR TOOLS.

[TOOL BUZZING]

COLONIZATION HAS WORKED EXTREMELY DILIGENTLY AND HARD

TO KEEP US IN CONTAINERS AND BOXES,

NOT JUST THROUGH CONTAINMENT ON RESERVATIONS AND LAND,

BUT THROUGH OUR OBJECTSAND INSTITUTIONS, OUR HISTORIES,

OUR LANGUAGE.

[ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING]

"TSU HEÉIDEI SHUGAXTUTAAN" IN TLINGIT TRANSLATES TO

"WE WILL AGAIN OPEN THIS CONTAINER OF WISDOM

THAT'S BEEN LEFT IN OUR CARE."

THAT CONTAINER OF WISDOM IS OUR LANGUAGE, OUR DANCE, OUR MUSIC,

OUR VISUAL ART, EVERYTHING.

AND IN A SOVEREIGN RECLAMATION OF POWER AND SPACE,

THAT WORK IS SAYING, "OUR WORK WILL LOOK LIKE THIS

"IF IT NEEDS TO,

OUR CONVERSATIONS WILL GO HERE IF THEY NEED TO."

WE GET TO DO WHATEVER WE WANT.

WE ARE ALLOWED TO IMAGINE

WHAT FORM IT CAN BE

WITHOUT ADHERING TO THESE IDEAS

OF ROMANTICIZED PERSPECTIVE.

I STARTED IN ENGRAVING AND WOODCARVING

WITH MY MENTORS WAYNE PRICE,

LOUIS MENARD,

MY FATHER, AND MY UNCLE WILL BURKHART.

NOTHING WAS MORE FULFILLING FOR ME THAN DOING THAT WORK.

THEN I WAS--JUST BE HERE TO LEARN AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE PART OF THAT CONTINUUM.

LEE: I'M NICK'S COUSIN.

OUR FATHERS ARE BROTHERS.

BOTH OF THEM ARE TLINGIT ARTISTS.

MY FATHER HAS DONE A LOT OF BIG, MONUMENTAL WORK--BIG TOTEMS,

SEVERAL CANOES AS WELL.

HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED ENGRAVER.

DEFINITELY ONE OF THE MASTERS OUT THERE.

I CAN REMEMBER BEING FIVE YEARS OLD

AND RUNNING AROUND TOTEM PARK,

WHERE MY FATHER WOULD CARVE.

IT'S DEFINITELY IN OUR FAMILY, IN OUR BLOOD.

NICHOLAS: THIS IS A HOUSE POST, SO IT'S A WORK IN PROGRESS.

IT'S JUST ROUGHING IT OUT RIGHT NOW.

I'LL CARVE THIS HALF, AND HE'LL FOLLOW ON THE OTHER HALF,

AND THEN WE'LL JUST MOVE THROUGH LIKE THAT.

THIS IS AN HISTORICALLY RELEVANT WAY OF WORKING

AND FOR AN APPRENTICE TO LEARN.

IN MY UNCLE'S STUDIO AND MY FATHER'S BENCH,

THERE WAS ALWAYS ALL THE TOOLS.

THE FOUNDATION OF ALL THE WORK COMES DOWN

TO UNDERSTANDING A TOOL, HOW TO MAKE A TOOL,

HOW TO MAINTAIN A TOOL.

XUÚT'AA, AN ADZE.

THIS IS THE TRUNK OF A TREE AND THE BRANCH.

THIS PARTICULAR ONE IS A PATTERN ADZE,

SO IT FLEXES.

SEE THAT? SLIGHT, LITTLE.

MY UNCLE MADE THIS 30 YEARS AGO.

THERE ARE SEVERAL DIFFERENT SIZES OF ADZES--

A GUTTER ADZE, WHICH HAS GOT A BIG CURVE

FOR REALLY, REALLY HEAVY WORK.

NO FLEX IN THIS.

HOOK KNIVES, CURVED, BENT KNIFE. IT'S A BLADE ON BOTH SIDES.

YOU CAN DO LOTS OF DETAIL WORK WITH IT IF NEEDED.

I DID AN ASSOCIATE OF ARTS DEGREE

AND THEN FROM THERE WENT TO LONDON GUILDHALL UNIVERSITY.

GOING TO LONDON HAD BROUGHT A LOT OF EXCITEMENT,

BUT THEY SAID I

COULD NOT USE ANY OF MY CULTURAL VISUAL LANGUAGE

IN MY WORK THERE.

THEY SAID IT WAS TOO LITERAL.

OFTENTIMES, WE ARE ASKED TO HANG UP OUR IDENTITY

AT THE DOORS OF THESE INSTITUTIONS.

THAT'S AN EXTENSION OF THE DAMAGING PHILOSOPHY OF

"KILL THE INDIAN, SAVE THE MAN."

THAT IS THE IDEA AND DESIRE AND PROCESS

OF FORCED ASSIMILATION,

OF REMOVING EVERY ASPECT OF OUR BEING,

EVERY ASPECT OF IT--THE FOOD AND SUBSISTENCE AND LAND,

THE LANGUAGE, THE REMOVAL OF CHILDREN

FROM INDIGENOUS FAMILIES,

PLACING THEM IN BOARDING SCHOOLS.

ALL OF THAT.

IT WAS ESSENTIALLY GENOCIDE,

AND COLONIAL VIOLENCE

AGAINST INDIGENOUS AND BROWN AND BLACK BODIES

IN NATION-BUILDING OF THE U.S. HASN'T REALLY STOPPED.

LATER, GOING TO MASSEY UNIVERSITY IN NEW ZEALAND

TO DO MY MASTER'S IN VISUAL ARTS,

I WAS ABLE TO ENGAGE IN THESE CONVERSATIONS AND THIS WORK

AND BRING MY CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES AND IDENTITIES.

AND THAT WAS WHERE A LOT OF MY WORK

REALLY STARTED TO TAKE PLACE AND HAPPEN.

THIS IS FORMING METAL

ESSENTIALLY, SO CHASING AND REPOUSSEÉ.

SO YOU WORK IT FROM BOTH SIDES, FRONT AND BACK.

IN TLINGIT CULTURE, A LOT OF OLD PIECES,

YOU'LL SEE COPPER SHAPED AND FORMED IN THIS PROCESS.

I START OFF WITH A SHEET OF COPPER,

SHAPE IT, AND THEN START DOING THE DETAIL WORK,

SO IT'S REALLY SLOW, SLOW WORK--

MONTHS AND MONTHS TO FINISH A MASK.

MASKS IN OUR CULTURE ARE SIGNIFICANT

AND ARE USED IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS

FROM CEREMONY TO HEALING TO STORYTELLING.

FOR "KILL THE INDIAN, SAVE THE MAN,"

I WORKED WITH INDONESIAN-MADE

TOURIST KNOCKOFF MASKS,

AND I CARVED THEM DOWN TO CHIPS

AND THEN REASSEMBLED THEM AS MASKS IN A PILE.

THAT VISUAL REFERENCE OF HAVING TO SHAPE OURSELVES SO MUCH THAT

WE CAN'T SEE OR MAKE SENSE OF OURSELVES IS THAT

JUMBLE OF CHIPS IN THE NEW FORM OF A MASK.

YOU'LL SEE HERE IN TOWN EVEN WITH OUR TOURISM,

OUR CULTURE BEING CONSUMED, OUR OBJECTS BEING CONSUMED

SO HEAVILY THAT IT'S JUST THE IDEAS OF THEM WITHOUT US.

TO STRIP THAT SO FAR THAT WE'RE REMOVED FROM IT

AND ALL YOU HAVE IS THIS MIMIC, THIS MISAPPROPRIATION,

THAT'S THE PEAK OF COLONIAL CONSUMPTION.

GIRL: WOW, NOVA. YOUR HAIR'S SO NICE!

NICHOLAS: ALL MY GANG.

MERRITT: OOH, THIS LOOKS SO NICE.

OH, DOGS.

NICHOLAS: I WAS JUST GONNA LET 'EM CLEAN

UP THE BABY'S FOOD.

MERRITT: NICK AND I MET AT A CONFERENCE

FOR NATIVE PERFORMANCE ART.

BETWEEN US, WE HAVE SIX KIDS--

[CHUCKLES] ONE THAT'S OURS THAT'S

A LITTLE ONE YEAR OLD,

AND THEN WE'VE GOT OLDER KIDS, EACH OF US.

ARE YOU HELPING? YOU WATCHING TO MAKE SURE WE DO IT RIGHT?

NICHOLAS: THIS IS... NICHOLAS AND MERRITT: SOCKEYE.

NICHOLAS: YOU CAN CATCH 'EM ON A FLY AND ROD,

BUT THESE ARE DIP NET.

[BABY FUSSES]

MERRITT: NICK CAN CATCH A KING SALMON ON A PADDLEBOARD,

NET IT, AND CLUB IT BY HIMSELF, AND PADDLE BACK TO THE BOAT

WITH, LIKE, 3--AND THESE ARE, LIKE, 20-POUND FISH.

THEY'RE NOT LITTLE, SO IT'S NOT A SMALL THING

TO NET THAT FISH.

NICHOLAS: THIS IS TAKING THE BONES OUT

AND CUTTING IT DOWN TO SIZE BEFORE WE BRINE THEM.

AND THEN WE'LL DRY THEM AND GLAZE THEM.

MERRITT: AND FOR THIS, WE'RE GOING TO FULL SMOKE.

NICHOLAS: OK, EVERYBODY HAVE GLOVES?

MERRITT: ALL THE KIDS ARE AROUND A LOT

IN EVERYTHING THAT WE DO,

AND IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO US TO INCLUDE THEM IN OUR WORK

AS MUCH AS WE CAN.

NICHOLAS: GOT IT.

MERRITT: NICK AND I ARE VERY INVOLVED

IN SUPPORTING EACH OTHER AND COLLABORATING ON WORK

WHEN WE CAN.

WE WORK COLLABORATIVELY, BUT WE ALSO SUPPORT EACH OTHER'S WORK.

AND WE HAVE DIFFERENT STRENGTHS, EACH OF US, TOO.

NICHOLAS: IF YOU LOOK AT THE PROCESS OF SALMON,

SKINNING DEER, PICKING BERRIES, TEACHING OUR CHILDREN

THE PROCESS OF CONNECTION TO PLACE AND LAND,

ALL OF THESE WAYS OF SURVIVING AND BEING AND CARING AND LOVING

THAT GOT US HERE TODAY GENERATIONALLY

THROUGH OUR ANCESTORS HAS AND HOLDS SOMETHING THAT

I WOULD SAY IS LIKE A MEMORY IN OUR DNA.

AND THAT MEMORY IN THAT DNA SURFACES IN THOSE PROCESSES

AND THROUGH JOY.

I GET A FEELING OF JOY.

YOU CAN'T CAPTURE IT IN ANY OTHER WAY BUT JUST LET IT

PASS THROUGH YOU.

THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN SHARE THAT

IS THROUGH TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN.

IN THESE INSTITUTIONAL SPACES ACROSS THE GLOBE,

THE WEALTH OF CULTURE THAT THEY "HAVE" HAS OFTENTIMES

BEEN MINED AND REMOVED FROM OTHER COMMUNITIES.

ALMOST ALL OF THESE OBJECTS HAVE BEEN STOLEN.

ALMOST ALL OF THEM HAVE CERTAINLY BEEN CREATED

FOR CONTEXT OF CULTURAL USE

AND NOT OF COLONIAL IMPRISONMENT.

THEY'RE OBJECTS OF POWER THAT DON'T BELONG IN THESE SPACES.

IT'S A BLUEPRINT, IT'S A PLAN, IT'S A MAP.

THE NEXT STEP FOR THIS ONCE THIS IS COVERED IN THIS PIGMENT

WILL BE TO PAINT THE FLOOR PLAN OF THE ANCHORAGE MUSEUM

WITH NOTES ON WHERE OUR CULTURAL OBJECTS ARE IN THOSE SPACES.

SO IT'LL ALMOST BE AN ESCAPE ROUTE

FOR PLAN OF REMOVAL.

THE IDEA THAT THESE OBJECTS WOULDN'T BE HERE

WITHOUT THOSE SPACES IS A MAJOR MYTH.

WE'VE CARED FOR OUR CULTURE AND OUR OBJECTS

AND OUR COMMUNITIES' KNOWLEDGE FOR 15,000-PLUS YEARS, RIGHT?

OUR COMMUNITIES ARE FIGHTING FOR MANY THINGS,

INCLUDING THE RETURN OF OUR OBJECTS,

IN SOME CASES RETURN OF OUR ANCESTORS' BONES.

THE REAL CHANGE ISN'T GOING TO HAPPEN WITH OUR COMMUNITIES

ONLY BEING THE ONES THAT ARE RESPONDING

AND LEADING WAYS IN THESE CONVERSATIONS.

THE REAL CHANGE HAS TO COME FROM THE COMMUNITIES

THAT ARE PERPETUATING IT OR THE COMMUNITIES

THAT ARE UPHOLDING IT BY REMAINING COMPLICIT

IN THE SYSTEM IN THOSE INSTITUTIONS.

THE WORK THAT I'VE BEEN DOING HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT BRINGING

LIGHT TO SOME OF THESE CONVERSATIONS.

[MAN SINGING ON RECORDING, INDISTINCT]

NICHOLAS: HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE YET?

ZAK: MM-MM.

NICHOLAS: WE'VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS RECORD FOR TWO YEARS.

IT'S GOING TO BE RELEASED WITH SUB POP RECORDS,

WHICH IS SUCH A LEGENDARY RECORD LABEL.

MUSIC YOU CAN EXPLORE, LIKE VISUAL ART, ENDLESSLY.

BEING ABLE TO MOVE FREELY IS REALLY A NECESSITY FOR ME.

THERE CAN BE A LOT OF DISCOVERY AND UNCERTAINTY AND POWER

IN SOUND.

YOU HAVE TO REMAIN OPEN TO WHAT THAT MIGHT BE.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

FOR ME, THE PROCESS, IT'S MORE ABOUT BEING RECEPTIVE

AND THEN TRUSTING THOSE IDEAS WHEN THEY COME.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT'LL BE NEXT.

I DON'T HAVE AN EXPECTATION OF THAT,

AND THAT'S LIBERATING.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

CHRISTINA: BIRTH AND DEATH. WHO ARE WE AND WHY ARE WE HERE?

THOSE ARE THE QUESTIONS THAT HAVE ALWAYS PLAGUED ME.

I'M ALWAYS INTERESTED IN NEW WAYS TO PORTRAY THAT.

I AM A STORYTELLER, AND I LOVE STORIES.

IF SOMETHING REALLY TOUCHES ME, I HAVE TO PROCESS IT

AND GET IT OUT BY DOING A PIECE.

I TRY TO EXPRESS THE SPIRIT WORLD IN MY WORK.

I BELIEVE THAT WE'RE MUCH MORE THAN OUR PHYSICAL BODIES.

I'M AN ARTIST THAT WORKS WITH GLASS,

BUT I'M SELF-TAUGHT.

AND MY PIECES, THEY'RE NOT PRISTINE.

MOST GLASS ARTISTS MAKE WORK THAT LOOK LIKE

IT'S DESCENDED RIGHT FROM HEAVEN.

AND MY PIECES ARE LIKE OUTSIDER ART.

YOU CAN KIND OF SEE THE FINGERPRINTS AND THE MISTAKES.

YOU KNOW, BUT I FEEL LIKE THAT'S MY ENERGY IN THERE

AND IT'S PART OF WHAT MAKES MY WORK ME.

SOMETIMES THE WHOLE PIECE CAN BREAK APART

WHEN I TAKE THE HEADS OFF.

THE CLAY FACE ON THIS PIECE HAS ALREADY BEEN FIRED.

CLAY IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH GLASS.

A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK I SOMEHOW HAVE FOUND A MAGICAL WAY

TO FIRE THEM TOGETHER, BUT NO.

I MAKE THE HEADS FIRST, AND THEN I BUILD MY PIECE

WITH WARMED BEESWAX.

EVERYTHING IN WAX IS GOING TO BE CAST GLASS.

I MADE THIS PIECE BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW OLD THEY ARE,

YOU ALWAYS WORRY ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN.

YOU'RE ALWAYS KIND OF CARRYING THEIR WEIGHT WITH YOU.

EVEN THOUGH MY CHILDREN ARE KIND OF GROWN NOW,

I DON'T THINK I'M EVER GOING TO STOP WORR--OOPS.

SEE? THAT WAS AN EAR WHICH WILL HAVE TO BE GLUED ON LATER.

I HAVE A LOT OF CHILDREN IN MY PIECES.

I THINK THAT THEY REPRESENT VULNERABILITY.

WHEN I HAD MY ACTUAL CHILDREN, THEY WERE SO ENTERTAINING

THAT THEY WERE A SOURCE OF IDEAS.

AND I'M STILL PROCESSING

EVEN THOUGH IT'S 13 YEARS LATER FOR THE TWINS, 17 FOR SOPHIE,

I THINK I'M STILL PROCESSING THE FACT THAT--

I'M SOMEBODY'S MOTHER. LIKE, I'M--WOW.

I HAD BEEN WORKING WITH CERAMICS.

I STARTED FEELING LIKE I JUST HAD WORKED MYSELF INTO A CORNER

WITH WHAT I WAS DOING, SO I KIND OF WENT INTO A CREATIVE CRISIS.

I TOOK A GLASS CASTING CLASS.

AND I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT GLASS, EXCEPT THAT I DIDN'T LIKE IT

BECAUSE IT WAS SO SHINY.

WITHIN ABOUT AN HOUR OF TAKING THAT WORKSHOP,

I REALIZED THAT GLASS CAN DO EVERYTHING THAT CLAY CAN,

BUT IT TRANSMITS LIGHT.

IT HAD SO MUCH POTENTIAL.

IDEAS ARE LIKE DREAMS.

IT'S ALMOST LIKE THERE'S ENERGY IN THE PIECE

AND WE'RE ABSORBING IT.

HEY, ELLIS. YOU PUT AN APRON ON? ELLIS: YES.

CHRISTINA: YOUR HANDS ARE GOOD? ELLIS: I THINK SO.

CHRISTINA: PUT THAT OVER YOUR HEAD.

I'LL TAKE WHAT I HAD SCULPTED IN WAX UP TO MY STUDIO.

I'LL MAKE A MOLD FROM A MIXTURE OF CASTING PLASTER,

SILICA POWDER, AND TALC.

I'LL PAD IT ALL OVER THE WAX.

I'LL END UP WITH A MOLD WITH A FLAT BOTTOM,

WHICH IS RESTED ON A VASELINE-COVERED SURFACE.

ONCE THAT'S SET, I'LL FLIP IT OVER,

AND IT WILL HAVE AN OPENING WHERE I CAN STEAM THE WAX OUT.

THE LOST WAX PROCESS USED IN JEWELRY IS VERY SIMILAR.

ONCE THE WAX IS OUT, I'LL HAVE A MOLD

WITH THE CONCAVITY OF THEFIGURE, LIKE A GHOSTLY PRESENCE,

YOU KNOW, THE SHAPE OF WHAT I HAD SCULPTED IN WAX.

HEY, WOULD YOU DO ME A FAVOR

AND PUT SOME OF THOSE LITTLE MOLDS IN WATER

SO WHEN I DEMOLD, THEY WON'T BREAK?

ROBERT: YEAH.

CHRISTINA: ROBERT AND I MET AT SUMMER CAMP WHEN WE WERE 14.

THEN WE REUNITED IN NEW YORK CITY 15 YEARS LATER.

VERY "HARRY MET SALLY," KIND OF. [CHUCKLES]

WE HAVE DONE A NUMBER OF PIECES TOGETHER.

HE UNDERSTANDS THE ANNEALING SCHEDULE.

HE IS ALSO REALLY GOOD AT PROVIDING

A SEPARATE PERSPECTIVE.

ROBERT: I WAS DOING CHILDREN'S BOOKS.

BUT MEANWHILE, I WAS HELPING CHRISTINA WITH HER WORK.

WE CAN'T HELP BUT BE INFLUENCED BY EACH OTHER,

AND WE DEFINITELY SUPPORT EACH OTHER TREMENDOUSLY.

CHRISTINA: I WORK WITH COLD GLASS.

WE BREAK THE GLASS UP WITH A HAMMER,

AND THEN WE FILL THE MOLDS WITH CHUNKS OF GLASS,

AND THEN WE'LL PUT IT IN THE KILN.

THE GLASS WILL MELT.

AND AS IT GOES LOWER AND SINKS INTO THE MOLD,

WE'LL HAVE TO FEED MORE CHUNKS OF GLASS INTO THE MOLD

UNTIL THE SURFACE IS LEVEL.

I HAVE A SENSE OF HOW I WANT THE COLORS TO BE,

BUT THERE'S ALWAYS THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE,

BECAUSE THE GLASS FLOWS.

ROBERT: WE MAKE SURE THAT THE GLASS HAS REALLY PENETRATED

INTO ALL THE CREVICES AND FINGERS OR WHATEVER,

AND THEN WE DROP THE KILN QUICKLY

DOWN TO THE ANNEALING TEMPERATURE.

FOR THIS PARTICULAR GLASS, IT'S 900 DEGREES.

MAN: YOUR JACKET IS SMOKING.

ROBERT: YEAH. YOU GOT TO DO IT FAST. HA HA.

THE WHOLE ANNEALING PROCESS MIGHT TAKE TWO DAYS,

BUT FOR SOME OF THE THICKER PIECES, IT'LL TAKE

MAYBE TWO TO THREE WEEKS OR LONGER.

CHRISTINA: ONCE THE ANNEALING'S FINISHED,

IT WILL BE A GLASS SCULPTURE WITH A MOLD AROUND.

AND THEN I SOAK IT IN WATER, AND I TAKE A HAMMER AND A CHISEL.

I BREAK OFF THE PLASTER.

IT'S VERY EASY TO SNAP OFF A FOOT OR AN ARM.

AND SO SOMETIMES THE ONLY THING I CAN DO IS

JUST RE-FIRE THE WHOLE THING, START ALL OVER.

[SANDER WHIRRING]

THE PIECES DON'T COME OUT NICE AND SMOOTH.

THEY COME OUT WITH, LIKE, SHARP SHARDS THAT CAN CUT YOUR HANDS.

SO I'LL SAND THE ROUGHNESS USING DIAMOND GRIT PADS.

ONCE I'M FINISHED POLISHING IT, I CAN GLUE

THE CERAMIC TO THE GLASS, AND THEN I ADD

ANOTHER LAYER OF NARRATIVE TO THE SCULPTURES

BY PAINTING ON THEM.

I'M THE HAPPIEST WHEN I'M IN NATURE,

BEING IN THE WOODS

AND THAT FEELING OF JUST BEING CONSUMED BY NATURE.

BIRDS AND INSECTS, THEY'RE A METAPHOR

FOR IRREPRESSIBLE LIFE FORCE.

YOU CAN'T CONTROL THEM OR CONTAIN THEM.

AND SO MY WORK IS VERY MUCH ABOUT THAT FEELING

OF BEING SAFE IN NATURE AND NURTURED.

WE HAD LIVED IN NEW YORK CITY FOR SEVEN YEARS

AND CAME OUT HERE TO VISIT A FRIEND,

AND IT WAS LIKE I JUST WAS TAKEN OVER BY NATURE.

VEGETABLES GREW OUT OF THE GROUND.

AND THERE WERE BLUE HERONS AND BALD EAGLES, AND IT JUST--

I REALIZED I HAD TO--I HAD TO.

WE FOUND THIS LITTLE PLACE, AND IT TOOK ABOUT TWO YEARS

FOR THE MIDNIGHT PANIC ATTACKS TO SUBSIDE

BECAUSE WE MOVED OUT HERE WITHOUT WORK, WITHOUT FRIENDS.

AND IT WAS JUST SORT OF NATURE.

NOW IT'S BEEN OVER 20 YEARS, AND WE HAVE

A REALLY GOOD SYSTEM OF FRIENDS, AND IT'S BEAUTIFUL.

WE HAVE EIGHT CATS, TWO DOGS, A SNAKE NAMED LUCY,

AND A MEAN PET GOOSE.

DAUGHTER: MAPLE IS OUR SWEETEST CAT. HA HA.

CHRISTINA: I THINK OUR KIDS DO THINK THAT WE'RE DIFFERENT.

BEING OUT HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE,

I GUESS WE MIGHT STAND OUT A LITTLE BIT.

I LOVE YOUR DAIKON SALAD.

WE MADE A DECISION TO NO LONGER EAT ANIMALS.

SO WHEN I GO SHOPPING WITH MY KIDS,

THEY'RE LIKE, "MOM, LOOK AT YOUR SHOPPING CART!"

BECAUSE IT'S ALL VEGETABLES.

SHE'S LIKE, "IT'S EMBARRASSING."

I THINK THEY'RE EQUAL PARTS EMBARRASSED, MORTIFIED

BUT PROUD OF US, TOO, YOU KNOW.

[FIRE CRACKLING]

MAN: Y'ALL STAY BACK.

SECOND MAN: DON'T WORRY.

CHRISTINA: THE FIRE STARTED-- WE DON'T REALLY KNOW.

WE THINK IT WAS AN ELECTRICAL ISSUE.

THE WHOLE STUDIO WAS GONE, MOST OF THE TREES.

AND THEN THERE WAS THE FEAR THAT IT WAS GOING TO SPREAD

TO THE HOUSE AND THE BARN.

I CAN STILL REMEMBER THE SOUND OF MY SCULPTURES EXPLODING.

IT SOUNDED LIKE CHANDELIERS BEING DROPPED ON THE GROUND.

THE FIRE WIPED AWAY OUR HISTORY--

MY GRANDPARENTS' PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS,

THINGS I HAD DONE AS A CHILD, 20,000 OF MY HUSBAND'S

CHILDREN'S BOOKS THAT HE'D WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED,

AND WE WEREN'T COVERED BY INSURANCE.

AND THEN WE HAD A CALL FROMTHE CRAFT EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND

FOR ARTISTS.

CERF CALLED ME UP AND THEY SAID, "WE WANT TO SEND YOU A CHECK."

AND I SAID, "BUT I HAVEN'T APPLIED."

AND THEY SAID, "WE DON'T CARE."

I WAS ABLE TO KEEP WORKING, WHICH WAS WONDERFUL.

CORNELIA? HI. CORNELIA: HI.

CHRISTINA: IT'S SO NICE TO FINALLY MEET YOU.

CORNELIA: FINALLY.

CHRISTINA: THIS IS THE STUDIO THAT YOU HELPED BUILD.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THAT GRANT.

CORNELIA: OH, MY GOD. AW.

AT CERF+, WE HELP ARTISTS OUT WHEN THEY HAVE

CRISES IN THEIR LIVES.

WERE YOU ABLE TO SAVE A LOT OF PIECES FROM THE FIRE?

CHRISTINA: NO, NONE. CORNELIA: NONE AT ALL.

CHRISTINA: JUST THE HEADS BECAUSE THEY'RE CLAY.

CORNELIA: WE'RE REALLY LOOKING AT SUPPORTING

CAREER STUDIO ARTISTS THAT DON'T HAVE ANOTHER SAFETY NET.

YOUR INCOME IS EPISODIC, YOURWORK DOESN'T COME WITH BENEFITS.

YOU PROBABLY SELF-INSURE HEALTH INSURANCE, IF YOU HAVE IT.

CHRISTINA: YES, YES. CORNELIA: YOU DON'T, YOU KNOW,

ACCUMULATE VACATION DAYS OR SICK DAYS, YOU KNOW.

SO ALL OF THOSE THINGS, THERE'S KIND OF NO SAFETY NET

OTHER THAN YOUR COMMUNITY.

CHRISTINA: HERE ARE A COUPLE PIECES

THAT I HAVE FINISHED RECENTLY.

I'VE JUST STARTED EXPLORINGTHE IDEA OF WALL HANGING PIECES.

CORNELIA: WE CAN'T FIX EVERYTHING,

BUT WE MAKE AN IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE

FOR THE ARTISTS IN THE COMMUNITY.

CHRISTINA: WHEN YOU SEE EVERYTHING WIPED AWAY,

IT'S REAL EASY TO FEEL LIKE "I COULD JUST NEVER DO WORK AGAIN.

IT DOESN'T MATTER."

BUT THEN I'D THINK, "WELL, CORNELIA THINKS I'M SPECIAL,

SO..." [CORNELIA LAUGHS]

[CONVERSATION CONTINUES, INDISTINCT]

CHRISTINA: AFTER THE FIRE, THERE WAS THIS LIBERATING FEELING

OF WE'RE ALL OK.

NOBODY WAS HURT. NOBODY WAS KILLED.

I DIDN'T LOSE MY EYES. I LOST STUFF.

I CAN ALWAYS MAKE MORE WORK.

MY WORK IS MY GIFT TO THE WORLD, IS WHAT GIVES ME JOY

AND WHAT LIGHTS ME UP.

AND WHETHER IT'S GOOD OR NOT,WHETHER I'M ORDINARY OR SPECIAL,

THAT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER.

IT'S JUST MAKING IT. I'M JUST GOING TO START OVER.

I WOULD START OVER AGAIN AND AGAIN IF I HAD TO.

THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE STORY.

I'M JUST BEGINNING.

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