LESLIE LOGAN: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
Good evening, and welcome to this evening's program. My name is Leslie Logan. I am the associate director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program here at Cornell University. I'd like to say [NON-ENGLISH] to Annmarie Ventura, who has given us the opportunity to collaborate with the Johnson Museum and the American Indian Indigenous Studies Program to bring this talk to this evening.
Today's program is artists in conversation, Marie Watt and Hayden Haynes, which is moderated tonight by my esteemed colleague and artist, scholar, and curator Dr. Jolene Rickard, Skarure of Tuscarora. And to begin the program with a land acknowledgment-- Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogoho:no the Cayuga Nation. The Gayogoho:no are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of the six sovereign nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land.
The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York State, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of the Gayogoho:nos' dispossession and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogoho:no people, past and present, to these lands and waters.
Again, it is my special honor, and it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you our artists. And who we have with us tonight is Marie Watt. She is a multimedia artist and a member of the Seneca Nation, so it gives me extra pleasure to introduce some of my Seneca brothers and sisters.
Marie's inter-disciplinary work draws from history, biography, Iroquois oral narratives, and Indigenous teachings, explores the intersection of history, community, and storytelling. Through collaborative actions, she instigates multigenerational and cross-disciplinary conversations that might create a lens and conversation for understanding connectedness to place one another in the universe. So welcome, Marie.
And we also have Hayden Haynes. He's an antler carver, but not just any old antler carver, an antler carver extraordinaire. He's a mixed-media artist and photographer and a member of the Seneca Nation as well.
His artwork is a blend of past and present Seneca Haudenosaunee culture and pays homage to the ancestors that inspire him, highlighting contemporary issues that contemporary Indigenous peoples face while celebrating their strengths. He pushes the boundaries of what is considered Native American art and focuses on amplifying women's voices, honoring their role in Seneca and Onondaga communities.
Our moderator this evening, Dr. Jolene Rickard, Skarure Tuscarora Turtle Clan, is an artist and associate Professor in Cornell's History of Art and Visual Studies department and the American Indian Studies program here at Cornell and former director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program here at Cornell.
We're so honored today to have Dr. Jolene Rickard work with us as a vital collaborator, and she has directed the stunning, stunning exhibit over at the Johnson Museum and as a foremost scholar of Haudenosaunee art has a wonderful essay, [INAUDIBLE] Marie Watt, Seneca Woman," in the fully illustrated catalog titled Storywork-- the Prints of Marie Watt, from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation.
So [INAUDIBLE] Jolene from the Johnson Museum and as well for me for being here. The program is made possible because of Jordan D Schnitzer and his Family Foundation generously sharing the important collection of Marie Watt's work through the exhibition "Storywork-- the Prints of Marie Watt" on view at the museum through July 31, at the Johnson.
The presentation was organized by [? Andrea ?] [INAUDIBLE], curator of modern and contemporary art and supported in part by the Russell [INAUDIBLE] and Diana Hawkins Exhibition Fund.
Hayden Haynes's Message from our Ancestors is also currently on view in the museum and was recently acquired by the museum, thanks to the Herbert F. Johnson class of 1922 Endowment. I now turn the program over to you, Jolene, to get us started. [NON-ENGLISH]
JOLENE RICKARD: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
Hello to everybody this evening. I'm really excited to be here. And I'd like to thank Leslie for doing the heavy lifting and positioning all of these different artists and the exhibit. And I'd also like to give a shout-out to [? Andrea ?] [INAUDIBLE] for expanding the exhibition of Marie's work when it came here to Cornell to include some of her more canonical pieces or some of the pieces that we've come to really appreciate.
I just wanted to talk a little bit about the status of Indigenous art. It's been a field that I've been associated with since the late 1970s. I think there was an earlier generation maybe by a few years that really began to engage or have a consistent dialogue in the arts world. And then we see this transformation of what was previously identified as American Indian art to this notion of Native American art.
And today, it's actually a global discussion with the language of Indigenous art. And the artists that are with us are actually leaders in, I think, this discussion. And so I often describe to my students this moment that we're at in the field. And I put it together in this way that at one point in time Black feminists made a very important intervention and shifted, actually, the way in which we understand not only feminism but also how we think about art and then, in particular, Black subjectivity.
And we can't turn back. Today, you can't really have a discussion in the arts without taking these ideas into consideration. And I believe we're at a very similar pivotal turn in that the ideas that both Hayden and Marie bring forward in their work. The language, I think, that people are beginning to pick up-- one of my students used the term in discussing Marie's work, which was a really interesting conflation, I think, between their interest in ecofeminism and also in sustainability, that the material she's using, she's upcycling.
And I thought, yes. This is like, OK, I'm going to add that to the discussion about Marie's work. But Indigenous artists, of which I think their work really does demonstrate ideas that are coming forward with the broad notion that we're now in a moment of asserting aspirations for anti-colonialism, and I think that part of the aspiration for anti-colonialism is also located within a discussion people are calling to rematriate.
And I think that we're beginning to now add some depth to these ideas, although they haven't settled. I think this is still in flux. But you know rematriate is definitely something that we can't ignore. And I think that it's going to shift to the way that we understand both the feminist discourse as well as the arts.
And the way that I think about it is that one of the central issues for Indigenous peoples has always been land. And so the purchase of Hayden's piece, the Land Back piece, I think is a marker, a significant marker, at the turn of the century of the condition of Indigeneity. And I think this piece accurately brings these things together, not only because of its materiality-- which I think both artists have this really complex and nuanced way of working with materials that I'm excited to learn more about tonight.
But they're referencing another idea. So we have anti-colonialism, rematriation, and we also have another term that's coming up that people are beginning to grapple with, which is, what is our relationship to things other than human beings? And so it's grounded in a very specific kind of Haudenosaunee and Indigenous notion of this. But how do we help? Or how do we make these ideas more accessible?
And I think that the works that we're seeing this afternoon really go a long way in helping us to understand a deeper meaning of these ideas. And so at large, I'm arguing that ideas of Indigenous protocol, Indigenous ways of being, reciprocity-- this week, we had another amazing scholar talk to us in the field of our history, [? Kendra ?] [? Kendall. ?]
And she brought forward a culture of care, which I think is also very centered in Marie's work, all under this broader umbrella of this anti-colonial moment of Indigenous futurity. And so I kind of threw a lot of terms at you. But I do think that they're really important ideas that each of the artists, I think, will give more meaning to in their discussion.
And so I'm so grateful to have worked with Marie to learn about her practice and to be in dialogue with Hayden about his practice and learning through his work, actually, through some of his generous research with one of our graduate students here, Dusti Bridges. So we have a lot to get to this evening. And I just want to say [NON-ENGLISH] to everybody for making this happen. And I'll turn it over to Marie to go ahead and share.
MARIE WATT: My apologies. I had an unstable moment with my internet connection. Can everyone hear me OK? All right.
Thank you for inviting me here today. And I want to acknowledge the Johnson Museum and the incredible staff that have kind of welcomed this project to the museum. I also want to acknowledge John Murphy, who was the original curator who I worked with through the University of San Diego in addition to Derrick Cartwright.
It's an honor to be here in discussion with Hayden Haynes and also with Jolene, especially after going through this process with Jolene and these kind of deep conversations to discuss the relationship between printmaking to my practice and then also sort of other Haudenosaunee connections and teachings to sort of guide this.
So a little bit about my work-- I would say in about 2004, I started working with blankets. And I was very interested in how blankets were used in my family, and what I thought then was, really, in our community. And for me and my family, we have this tradition of giving away a blanket to honor someone for being witness to an important life event.
And I realized that some of this understanding probably came from growing up in the Pacific Northwest. While my mom grew up at the Cattaraugus Reservation, she moved out west to be a nurse at the University of Washington Hospital. And then she went into working in Indian education. And in the urban Indian community, and in this community, native community in the Northwest, we had this tradition where we would give a blanket away to honor somebody for being witness to an important event.
So it could have been the welcoming of a new child or a graduating from high school or college or something else that was accomplishment in a person's journey. And so I started thinking about blankets as these objects that had specific kind of connection to my identity as a Seneca woman. And then I also saw how blankets were used in the Indigenous community in other capacities.
I think one thing where I start to see blankets used even more so in my family is thinking of quilts that were made out of early treaty cloth. And so those are some of my references for blankets. But one of the things I noticed when I first started collecting blankets, I would say, scavenging for them at thrift stores, anything $5 and under, is that these objects were storied.
And it didn't have to be a blanket that you had, but maybe if you'd seen this blanket before, it might kind of tick off or help you remember this story about a person. And I love that blankets are markers for memories and stories. So my earliest work with the blankets-- and I thought it would start and stop, actually, with realizing the sculpture in which the blankets were sort of like totem-like and in which they were ladder-like. And they might evoke linen closets and trees of the Pacific Northwest.
But also what I was thinking of ladder-like, I was thinking of this relationship between sky and earth. And I was especially thinking of it being ladder-like for Sky Woman. Next slide.
So that was sort of my first entry to working with these materials. And I quickly realized how blankets were witness to important events in our lives. And I started thinking about how other materials kind of have that same capacity to be witnesses. And so I started using reclaimed timber. And so this particular sculpture is a CNC sculpture of folded blankets.
And one of the things that I really respond to with working with reclaimed wood is that wood, sort of blankets, it's this living material. And so oftentimes if a reclaimed timber has been down, say, for-- I don't know-- 50 or 100 years as this beam that had this previous use before it was a canopy in the forest.
All of a sudden, as this sculpture, it starts to give sap again. And it also has this checking that happens, which is the cracks that sort of one might see in this particular piece, Skyscraper/Skywalker-- Sapling Meets Flint. And in this piece, I think that those checkmarks kind of relate to the material sort of breathing and the sense of breath. Next slide.
In this particular piece-- and I'm sorry. I hope your screens are better than mine. But this is a piece, Companion Species-- Field. And I was really interested in the way army blankets and these old army blankets, how they have different colors of-- they're different shades of green. And how, in a way, for me they're a metaphor for the landscape. These army blankets, they were made so people could camouflage or embed themselves in the landscape and become one with the landscape.
And so in this particular piece, Companion Species-- field not only do we have these blanket remnants kind of creating this field but also we have this kind of mother wolf or canine form whose body is also sort of field like. Next slide
these are probably some of my newest prints in this exhibition, Storywork. And they were created collaboratively. And I'm trying to figure out how to just briefly scratch the surface of what happened in this process. But I introduced the concept of pressure printing to students at Portland Community College. And probably within-- I don't know-- six hours and two sessions, over 100 students made prints by drawing a word out of a hat.
And the words came from thinking about Marvin Gaye's song "What's Going On?" And that's probably a theme in this exhibition, if you start to look around. But I was thinking of Marvin Gaye's song "What's Going On." And it was written in the '70s. And it was penned by Obie Benson. And he saw this anti-war protest, a Vietnam War protest, in Teachers Park in Berkeley.
And he was on a bus. And he asked this question, what's going on. And then he penned the lyrics to the song, which Marvin Gaye eventually sings, "Mother, mother, brother, brother, sister, sister." And I thought about this twinning language, which is so interesting to me. But also I started to think about, in an Indigenous way, that call would continue. So it would continue to be grandmother, grandmother and grandfather, grandfather and sky, sky and turtle, turtle.
And so I was thinking about how this kind of Marvin Gaye idea about our relatedness and then also this Indigenous and very Haudenosaunee idea about our relatedness. And for me this twinning language has, like, these ideas of not only is it connected to this history of call and response, but it's this idea of calling back to our ancestors and calling forward to future generations.
And in a way, like when Marvin Gaye says, "mother, mother" twice, for example, which also makes me think of Hayden's interest in women's voices, it's a way of casting this urgent call forward in space. Next image.
So this is very dear to me because I know this is a new piece in the Johnson Museum collection. And this beaded piece is on treaty cloth. And one thing I think that's important to know about this cloth is that, as a result of our treaty, our communities received these bolts of cloth. And the way the cloth is distributed annually varies from community to community.
But in our-- I'm from Cattaraugus. And because I do not live at Cattaraugus, I oftentimes will write a note and have one of my aunties pick up my trade cloth or treaty cloth. And I think one thing that's really important to understand about this cloth is that originally the cloth was calico. And then the government, federal government became sort of cheaper and cheaper in regards to the quality of the cloth that they shared with us as a result. Or not shared, but cheaper and cheaper with the bolts of fabric they gave us.
And then now it's this muslin cloth. But I think one thing that's important to know is the federal government tried to renegotiate and buy out this specific part of our treaty. And clan mothers actually refused to negotiate that item in the treaty because there was this feeling that if we negotiated this one item, that it would give the federal government permission to negotiate and change all other elements in our treaties.
So I am a child who saw Star Wars in 1970 in the theater, the first run. And I remember feeling this pride of knowing that there was this person, Luke Skywalker, because I, of course, had Skywalkers in my family tradition too, except for the Skywalkers I was thinking of were the Haudenosaunee and Mohawk, in particular, ironworkers.
And so I've had this sort of-- I felt seen seeing that word in the world, knowing what its meaning was to me and my family and my tradition. And when I moved to New York, I feel like I traded in the conifers of the Pacific Northwest for skyscrapers.
And I really have given a lot of thought to this relationship between these large buildings in that space, that there's this human interest in occupying this sky space. And I think that it's a spiritual space. And I think it's also a space that's vulnerable and that we also have to steward. Next image.
I'm so glad this is of the gallery space because I think in this moment, I am going to just-- we'll look at the additional slides, and I would like to share the floor with Hayden. Next slide.
We might just really quickly-- we might talk a little bit about this later. I asked for this to be included because I'm very interested in Hayden's carvings of spoons. Next.
My mom likes to say we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as hard. Next slide. Next slide. Thank you.
HAYDEN HAYNES: Thank you, Marie. Thank you, everybody. Pleasure to be here, especially amongst such great, great company. Really honored to be asked to join this conversation and share this space with you all tonight.
One of the things that I learned early on when I started carving antlers about, almost 20 years ago, I guess, was that there was-- the way it was sort of treated, I guess, in many circles of Native crafts and Native art world, it was and still is something that is not really spotlighted a lot in comparison to other-- I guess you could call it traditional forms and traditional media.
So I learned that early on. And that's what sort of set me on a path to accomplish two things. One is to learn more about it than I had already known, which at the time, wasn't a whole lot. Learn more about the material and how it related to our culture, how it related to our history.
That set me on paths to meeting people like Dusti Bridges and eventually folks like archeologists and reading things and just trying to learn so I could help maybe educate people or at least bring a little awareness to this very overlooked media. It's a material that coexisted long before many others, coexisted with stone and wood.
And of course, this is before things like Europeans brought glass beads over and things that are more common today than when people think of Haudenosaunee material. So that's one thing.
So what I thought also was there isn't very many people that are in this practice in Haudenosaunee territories. I only know of a handful of people that are actively practicing. I'm sure there's many more that are up and comers. And I know for a fact, there's a lot more right here on territory. Because again, one of the things I wanted to do was to share what I learned about the material, about how it relates to our culture, and also teach people how to actually work the material, work the material through how our ancestors did it, and work the material using modern technology and tools.
That's kind of what I wanted to do, is to get more people to take on this really important form and also teach them so that it can exist, continue to exist. One quick example of how important or culturally how it relates to our stories, for example-- in one version-- because this is a bone comb, an antler comb medallion-- in one version of our creation story, the first object ever mentioned was a comb, a bone comb.
And so I thought that that's-- again, this is one of many examples, culturally. I'm just speaking of how it relates to our stories. And so creation story is super important, obviously. And why was the first object that was ever mentioned a bone comb? So that just is an example of that.
So these combs have many different purposes in our culture. And for one, it could be used to help induce fertility, which is in reference to the creation story version that I'm talking about. Also has a way to transform people-- it's a transformation device, basically-- transform people from maybe mental anguishes, depression, addiction, things like that.
We all know of [INAUDIBLE] and the forming of the five nations and when they combed the snakes from his hair and then how his mind was subsequently straightened, and he was able to join the cause for peace. And these are things that either get omitted or get glossed over real quickly.
So I use these forms a lot of times, like these combs, like our ancestors have done, to highlight what they've done and the messages that they're trying to convey at the time and use contemporary spin sometimes. So I always tell people, what I do isn't really nothing new. It's stuff that our ancestors have done with these decorative combs from the 1600s and 1700s. This is what our ancestors did. And they're using for different purposes other than what I even mentioned.
So this piece here, unfortunately, it was acquired by the Johnson Museum of Art. And what it is is on the front there is-- that red figure is a figure that was found that came from one of our Seneca villages. So it's quite old, that image. And in the original image, or on the original image, because it still exists, obviously, that figure, instead holding that sign, he's sort of like-- I guess people interpret it as like he's waving because his hands are kind of like this.
So again, highlighting our ancestors is one thing I want to do. So I thought it would be fitting to have that hand, instead of waving, holding a sign. And that's why this piece is called Message from our Ancestors. And it just simply says, "Reclaim what's ours." And it has this figure breaking out of these brick wall type of thing.
And I'm not really going to get into a whole lot about my meaning of it, just because I like to leave that type of stuff to you guys to sort of formulate your own interpretations on it because there's a lot there, more than we have time to talk about it. I could talk about it for a long time.
And then on to the image on the right, you can see that there's all these beads. You can't really make them out, but those are all beads with the exception of the ones on the very top. They're carved out of antler. So again, it's bringing notice to the fact that bone, stone, and wood beads predated all other beads in terms of Haudenosaunee beads. And wampum and shell beads, I should say, were right there too.
But this is, again, making reference to the fact that, hey, this material, this image, these beads, these messages that are on these decorative combs, they're still important. This material is important. And it relates to our culture. It's how our people use this to comment on the times back then. It's still something that we're doing. And it's still important. Next slide, please.
Other images. Did a great job. I was fortunate to see this in person. I think was last fall. And yeah, it's a beautiful space. And next slide, please.
This is a rattle that is made entirely out of antler. That the top part there that looks like a old clay pot is made out of antler also. And it's functional. And of course, the handle is this white corn. And this corn husk doll figure-- so again, going back to what I said, and Marie-- or how I was introduced and what Marie alluded to, a lot of what I do is focus on uplifting our women's voices and being there to support them and to comment on what they're doing and to use whatever little platform I have to bring attention to them.
And that's probably because I grew up with a single mother. And my grandmother was right there alongside her to help raise me. So I have this very strong just natural tie to strong Indigenous women. And so that's probably just a lot of where my influence comes out, is where my interest is, to speak back to that and pay honor to that and what my family has done for me, what our families before us have done, the matriarchs, and what our women, current-day, young and old are doing.
It's just super important that we be there for our women and help them continue to restore their roles in our culture and our society. So that's what this is all about. Has to do with food, of course, with the white corn. The corn husk doll, the female figure, is sort of pregnant. And then we have this pot.
As we know, pots, clay pots, are something that our women made from the fields. The domain of the women was the village, but the fields-- they control all aspects of that, complete 180 compared to what Europeans first encountered when they came. Theirs is the opposite, where the men control the land. The men own the land. In our culture today, for the Seneca, specifically, the women still own the land. 2/3 of the women have to vote. To this day, the mothers of the nation have to vote to approve any land sales of the Seneca Nation of Indians, specifically.
So this is real stuff. And this is important. And we have to continue to look back and remember and continue to dismantle a lot of the backwards thinking that got ingrained in us over the centuries. Next slide, please.
This is my most recent work. And again, it's in reference to-- well, it's inspired by my grandmother, actually, because my grandmother last year gave me a mortar and pestle made out of wood, which is what many cultures have used, but Haudenosaunee people, Seneca people have used for a long time to pound corn, white corn, for food.
And so she gifted me this corn pounder that was in our family for, as far as she knows, the early 1800s. And so I'm tasked now with caring for this super important family object. And that's what really made me start thinking more about what our matriarchs throughout the years in our family have been doing.
And so as you can see, you've got all these corn that are braided. And they're carved. They're all carved. And then there's a pigment that gets applied. And then it gets wiped off and where the engravings are stays black. And that's what kind of-- I don't know if you can really see it. But that's where you can see all the single kernels.
So it's got this braided necklace coming out with these braided corn, which is what our people did and still do when they harvest corn, is they hang them to dry before they get put into this-- as goes down-- to this mortar and pestle, where they make the flour and stuff like that. So I put a little spin on it. And I added the female figure there. And she's got a dress that's got a lot of bone combs on there.
So I'm putting-- the pattern of her skirt has these bone comb images of corn, corn stalk. So again, it's just taking the opportunity to speak to things to get people to remember the thing and honor our women. And it's strung together with ribbon. Of course, our women today are making their ribbon skirts and their dresses-- and the men with the ribbon shirts-- out of ribbons. So I felt like that was appropriate to our contemporary times. Next slide, please.
This piece-- and actually, before I start, I'd like to ask Marie if she'd like to talk about the spoons.
MARIE WATT: Sure. I mean, I feel like you might be more prepared to talk about spoons than I am. As a person who's carved spoons, I think one thing that-- I've been thinking a lot about spoons lately. And I've been thinking about spoons in collections where I don't know who the maker is, but I know that they're Haudenosaunee or Seneca spoons, for example.
And when I first was introduced to your work and I knew that you carved spoons, I thought I had questions for you thinking about how did you learn. Who did you learn from? But I started also thinking about this notion of a dish with one spoon. Are you familiar with that?
So I was thinking about a dish with one spoon, which that idea is that when treaties were being made, there was this sort of covenant or idea that the dish kind of represented the land. And that would be shared peacefully. And the spoon represented individuals living on the land and using the resources of the land in a spirit of cooperation.
And so there was that aspect of spoons that really kind of interested me. But then I also was really thinking about how spoons are used in our community and this notion that a spoon is shared and the notion that spoons are used to feed and nourish our bodies. But then I think that one thing that's sometimes hard for me, when I think of Seneca and Haudenosaunee objects in museum collections and behind glass is I feel like they're not-- they're these living objects, and yet they're not being fed the way they're supposed to be fed.
And I think that part of that is how a spoon quite literally can feed us and nourish our bodies but also then how we feed the spoon. And so I think that it's something that I really gravitated toward in thinking about your work and what does it mean. What does it mean to be called to carve a spoon, especially because these are objects, utensils that we sort of take for granted now?
And so I would love to learn about your experience with spoons, Hayden, and what drew you to carving your first spoon.
HAYDEN HAYNES: Sure. Thank you. Yeah. I don't know in terms of how it relates to our people. I don't have a whole lot more that I would want to really offer. I think you said it really well. One of the things is oftentimes folks think-- if you get that deep, when you see old Seneca or old Haudenosaunee spoons, they're typically made out of wood. But in reality, there's been many that are made out of antler.
So again, this is another opportunity to use what I do to show-- if somebody said, well, hey, that's weird. It's made out of antler. Aren't the spoons made out of wood? And the answer is not always. So it's, again, another opportunity for that.
All this stuff Marie said, absolutely. And then as it gets even deeper for this piece, it was some, I guess you could say, tongue-in-cheek humor about what I spoke about earlier is how this material, even though there's so many examples in our stories, in our oral traditions, in our ceremonies that have the use of this material, it still is something that is like, whoa, that's too different. That's not like these other forms we're used to or these other materials. I don't know what that is.
So this is a way to say, well, sometimes this type of work gets maybe looked at, especially early on, the equivalent of macaroni art like we used to do back when we were in recreation and stuff like that. So I decided-- I just told myself, well, if that's the way it gets sort of treated, then I'm going to make macaroni art. And so that's where this idea of carving all these little pieces. And then there's like this figure that I made up top that I just sort of call my macaroni guy.
And yeah, it was all that. And I don't want to spend more time on that, just because I know we're getting-- that's kind of taking up too much time. Next slide, please.
Yeah. Here you go again with another ladle. And it's got a corn-husk figure sitting at the top holding on. Yeah. There's a lot there in terms of, again, it's a use of a female figure, one of our traditional crafts, cork-husk dolls, and that story and this conversation with food and spoons and family and community. Next slide, please.
I think this is the last one. Yeah. I'm glad that Annmarie suggested to put this in there, especially as it relates to what Marie was talking about. Yeah, this was many-- well, 2018 I made this. And it was a fun piece with the Star Wars theme and the antlers and the stormtroopers.
So again, I don't want to take up much more time. I want to make sure everybody has a chance to ask their questions, et cetera. So thank you all. Thank you, Marie, for your input on the spoons. I'll turn it back over to Jolene.
JOLENE RICKARD: [INAUDIBLE]. That's a lot to really move the discussion forward. Thank you to both of you for your insight. We have two extraordinary students with us now at Cornell, Dusti Bridges and Noah Mapes, that are working on their PhDs and looking at this work very carefully, giving it the respect that it's due.
And Dusti has put a question out for you. And I'd just like to share it with you and give you both a chance to reflect on it. I think you've covered some of these things. But the way that she puts it might bring the discussion even to a little more clarity. And Dusti writes, both of your works often utilize and portray materials that have been appropriated by archeologists and anthropologists to categorize and control histories and cultures.
For example, Hayden draws upon bone combs, ceramics, wampum, and basketry. And Marie draws upon blankets, jingles, beads, and even Roman statuary. And so here's the question. How do you perceive your relationship to the histories of these objects? And how do you understand their new life and transformation within your work?
HAYDEN HAYNES: Marie, do you want to go first?
JOLENE RICKARD: You have to unmute.
MARIE WATT: Sorry. I'm wondering if it's really a new life, or I almost feel like-- gosh, I had made a note earlier. I feel like it's kind of-- I'm losing the word that I'm searching for. OK. Never mind. I'm going to have Hayden go first, and then I'm going to come back.
JOLENE RICKARD: How do you perceive your relationship to the histories of these objects? And how do you understand their new life and transformation within your work? And so some of your work, Hayden, really does have a direct resonance with the past. But in that last piece, which I'd not seen before, with the stormtrooper on it, you said it's just a fun piece. But I think it's actually quite profound and that you're bringing forward-- I would locate it in the discussion of Indigenous futurity.
And I think there's this impulse in your work to move the whole cultural space forward somehow. But these objects are so old from the past. You're working with archeological materials. So what's going on there?
HAYDEN HAYNES: [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah. I really try to pay homage to the ancestors that inspired me and some of the contemporary makers too who have sadly passed on, like [INAUDIBLE] Norman Jimerson from Cattaraugus. Those are-- especially Norman Jimerson super mind-blowing work, [INAUDIBLE] work he's done.
So I want to make sure that people understand that, to point lines back to history so that people can understand that there's a lot of references back there. And our ancestors were very smart. And I think that gets lost in a lot of these writings and stuff. They were really smart. The technology that they had available to them was limited, of course, because of the times, yet they were able to create these beautiful, decorative combs.
They were able to use this material for things like projectile points and awls and needles and corn scrapers and all these amazing things made out of bone and antler that just sort of get forgotten about. But it's so tied to our culture and our history. And so what I do now is, again, to help with that conversation but also to say, we are a contemporary people. And we are using sometimes modern tools, which is what I use. And that's a whole other discussion with itself.
There's a lot of pushback on that too, I think, sometimes. Well, why aren't you doing it with score and snap and soaking the antlers and abrasion and stuff like that. And I read how to do that. And I understand it. But our ancestors were doing what they were doing at the time. This is a way to say, we don't have to be subjected to the past all the time. We can still be modern people and still push these boundaries forward and push forward in the work too.
So it's kind of trying to do two things-- acknowledge the past but also sort of push the boundaries, kind of like what you were talking about, Jolene.
JOLENE RICKARD: Yeah. No, I totally get that. And Marie, did you want to pick it up?
MARIE WATT: Yeah. Sorry about that. I agree with what Hayden is saying. And I think of these materials as not being contained by a historical moment. I think our ancestors were-- our ancestors were also contemporary people, right? And at some point, we're going to be the ancestors that maybe somebody else is talking about.
So I think of these materials as being incredibly expansive. And, in a way, looking at Hayden's work, I think he's making this expansive remark or movement. He's kind of evolving this vocabulary and the voice of this material in a way that's really important and I think in a way that our ancestors did in their time. And so I don't think that-- I think the word-- sometimes I think that we get bogged down maybe with the word "traditional."
I actually think that the word traditional, for me, is very interesting in regards to beadwork because I think that a lot of Westerners think of glass beads as being this traditional Indigenous art form. But truthfully, beads were introduced through trades. And what is traditional is the way we innovate and the way we use materials that are from a bunch of different sources.
And I think maybe the one thing that's really changed is-- I like thinking about-- I went to the Institute of American Indian Arts. And when I was there, Rick Hill was there, and [? Ray ?] [INAUDIBLE] was there. And there were a bunch of Haudenosaunee people that had kind of taken over Santa Fe for a while.
And one of the things that Rick curated was a show called Creativity is our Tradition. And I think thinking about creativity in that kind of dynamic way is really important and not limiting ourselves by materials. And I think the biggest challenge, actually, in having the work of contemporary artists out in the world, it's not that there hasn't been contemporary artists for every generation.
The problem is that there have been people siloing that material and putting it in very specific collections, so in the anthropology museums, in the history museums, not in contemporary art spaces, not in spaces where we also work and move and live and bring our families. So I think that that's where this change is happening.
JOLENE RICKARD: And so really opening up the way in which this-- or maybe rejecting these categorizations so the work and its materiality are part of that project of rejecting those kind of narrow categorizations. It really helps us to do that, right?
MARIE WATT: Right. And actually, Hayden, it makes me think of your spoon. And I apologize for not even commenting on the spoon that was right in front of me because your spoon is that spoon with the craft comment on it and the macaroni. It was a very funny piece. And it also, in a way, was kind of making this conversation really self-evident.
It's kind of talking about what is craft. Was it what isn't craft? Why is macaroni craft? When is working with bone craft? Why is painting not craft? But it's-- I really think that that piece is super funny and thought provoking and kind of really looks at the complexity of this question of how our work has been historically placed and how that placement is changing.
JOLENE RICKARD: When you talk about it in that way, Marie, you inspire me to think about a comparison between Warhol's Brillo Box and the humor in that, but bringing to the discussion the kind of irony because there's a lot of cultural-encoded thought in that spoon that's available for analysis, actually, or for critique. And so it could be-- so you're right that somebody could just dismiss it unless they really understood this kind of ironic humor that I think is in that macaroni spoon.
MARIE WATT: Absolutely.
JOLENE RICKARD: Yeah. So that's really wonderful. So let me bring up one of the questions that Noah Mapes, who's a PhD student in the History of Art department-- I just mentioned that Dusti's defending this spring in anthropology. So we're really excited about that. Noah writes-- let's see. He's got three great questions here. Let me start with this one.
Yeah. This is sort of a buzz term, a term that's kind of on the scene right now. So this is a question about other than human entanglements. And so Hayden Hayes fashions a fair number of his works through antler carving, while Marie Watt has similarly addressed human and other-than-human entanglements in her work, notably the Companion Species series. Could the two artists expand a bit more on how they see their works within these entanglements, either in material process, subject matter, and/or message, and their thoughts regarding other than humans and land as collaborators.
And so I'm not sure if you're resonating with the other-than-human construct, which is actually quite alive within academic circles. But we'll take it from there. So--
MARIE WATT: Hayden, did you want to go first?
HAYDEN HAYNES: I was just about to say, I'm going to defer to Marie first for questions unless she wants me to go first.
MARIE WATT: I'll go first. I mean, I'm trying to-- so I guess I've been asking the question in my work, and I still ask this question, and that is what would the world look like if we considered ourselves companion species. And that question actually comes from the perspective of a person who is raised, in a way, to think-- a Seneca woman raised to think of my relationships to not just family and extended family, but also to animals and to the land.
And so I started trying to figure out what was the entry point for me for that conversation. And I thought, well, our clans are a way of acknowledging our relationship to animals. And I'm from the Turtle Clan. And I thought, well, in Western culture, what is evidence of this? Where do other people have that entry point in relationship with animals?
And well, I used to be a cat person. I'm also a dog person. And I started thinking about dogs as the entry point to that relationship. And so I'm really interested in having-- I don't know how-- I'm really searching for ways to enter conversations about these relationships. And I think in my practice, some of that happens in sewing-- open to the community sewing circles, where-- what does it mean to stitch a word that has a word on it that might have some resonance to these other-than-human entanglements, right?
I'm really interested in that conversation. And I think for me, that Marvin Gaye song, too, was also the beginning of seeing a reference that had this historical and political component to it but then also that talked about something-- when Marvin Gaye sings, "Mother, mother, brother, brother, sister, sister," he's not just talking about his mother, his brother, his sister. He is talking about extended family.
And he's talking about my relationship. I feel like Marvin Gaye is talking to me in that song. And I hope other people feel like he's talking to them. I realize I'm not really going far enough with this. But I actually think that this conversation is important if not essential in regards to how we steward our relationships with one another, the land, and animals in order to create a place for future generations.
And so I look forward to hearing what Hayden has to say on the topic. And truthfully, I feel like it's such a big topic that I almost feel really tongue-tied in getting to the points that I'd like to get to. I need more time. Hayden?
HAYDEN HAYNES: Thank you. Thank you. Sometimes it's not funny-- maybe not funny-- interesting that for a while now, there's a big movement for upcycling and repurposing. And that's kind of a popular type of thing, when many cultures, including Haudenosaunee people, didn't really think of it that way. But that's in some ways what happens with these antlers. They were on these living animals at one point, and then they shed them. And we use them for different things.
People have used them for different things for a long time. And they still do. That's one of the things that I enjoy most about the time that I spent and still spend learning from other people and reading and stuff like that is when people, such as folks that are, for instance, working on tanning hides, for example, sometimes they'll reach out to me.
And they're not interested in just carrying on that practice, but they're also wanting to do it with materials that our ancestors did. They want that connection, maybe. I don't know what the reason is. I can just guess that's what it is.
So they'll come to me. And I'll say, hey, from what I've learned, this is the type of-- for a scraper, for example. This is a type of animal that you would get this piece for that you're looking for. This is how you work the material. You can work it the modern way, or if you want to know how to work it the old way, I'll share that with you too.
And that's enjoyable because in our culture, everything is connected, the animals, the water, the fish, the birds. There's no hierarchy. They're all the same. We're all the same beings.
And so that's the type of thinking that I think some people outside are searching for or acknowledging or learning about or practicing now. But that's embedded in us. And that's something that we can speak to through our work and through things that we do as a people.
JOLENE RICKARD: Yeah. Hayden, do you think that folks in the community would describe those relationships in the way that we're writing about it in academia, this relationship to other than human beings? Or do you think that kind of abstraction-- I have that question, right? Is it just confusing the matter?
HAYDEN HAYNES: I'm not sure. But maybe on a different note, sort of, is-- I'm sure you've heard this too, and especially true in our communities where they say anytime you make something, it becomes alive in a way. It becomes something because you've put your energy into it. You've held it. You've made it. It's now this thing.
And sometimes those things were used and still are used for purposes, let's just say. But the fact of the matter is that when things are made, they have a spirit in the home. Everything has a spirit. Acknowledging that is part of it as well, I guess. I know that doesn't answer your question. I apologize. But I guess to answer your question, like I said, I'm not sure exactly.
MARIE WATT: Jolene?
JOLENE RICKARD: Yeah, go ahead.
MARIE WATT: Can I ask you a question? Because I wasn't familiar that this conversation was happening as much in academia. But do you define, given the way that you've been raised in your own belief system, that it's sort of interesting that this is suddenly becoming this moment that's being talked about in academia? Because I do feel aligned with what Hayden said in regards to it kind of just being embedded in kind of a Haudenosaunee system of beliefs or way of thinking.
And I'm thinking of corn-husk objects. And it's like, there's the corn. And then there's the husk that can be woven into masks or mats or other objects. And then there's the cob. And even the cob was used. So this idea of using all of something and then recognizing its spirit and how it nourishes our body and recognizing it in all of these different manifestations and forms. I don't know. I'm really curious about your perspective and point of view on this topic as well.
JOLENE RICKARD: Well, I bring it up because I'm struggling with a number of these terms myself. And I'm wondering if they're being used in meaningful ways or if they're kind of a language that's evolving to signal an intent without really taking responsibility for the understanding or the relationship.
And so I see it as two phenomenons. First, that the field of Indigenous studies has expanded so rapidly. It didn't exist, really-- I mean, the field of American Indian studies has existed for quite some time. But this particular focus on, now, the shift to, in particular, global Indigenous studies, with a kind of comparative analysis between settler-Indigenous relationships, settler colonialism, the demand or call to understand coloniality, I think all of these ideas and provocations are part of people struggling with trying to find a way to describe what I believe anthropologists and sociologists for a period of time would have called animacy or would have-- stepping out of that really derogatory language of primitivism, they shifted to the language of animacy.
And then there's a period of time that there was a shift, then, to the language of the use of ontology. And then now I see the discussions of multiple ontologies receding and a focus on the call to understand both this notion of entanglement but also this idea of beings other than human having these relationships. And we have, I think, in our communities, just like a teaching narrative, which is the [INAUDIBLE] or the Thanksgiving address. That's the demonstration of it.
It reminds us every time it's spoken about that interrelationship. And so that's, for me, the conflict. Because I think that it wasn't abstract for our ancestors. And it is not abstract for our people in particular when they're living right in the culture. They're part of the ceremonial centers, or they're part of a longhouse, or they're part of-- even if they're not part of a longhouse community, but just part of living with each other that they're in it.
And so they're not using this language. And so it's actually when we're outside of the communities that we touch upon or create these terms to signal, but we haven't either had the confidence or we haven't had-- or we don't want to open those doors. Because Hayden kind of gave a little peek that that discussion leads to a whole discussion about the-- and you said it too, Marie, the spirit of all of these materials and things as living.
And so it leads to other really expansive discussions. And I don't think we've done the intellectual scaffolding between our relationship between ourselves and settler spaces to feel comfortable to disclose. So I do think we're all kind of skirting around this really deep-- actually, the deeper understanding of why we keep insisting upon the ideas that are coming forward, the concept of rematriation, the concepts engaged in communities of care, et cetera.
But I think there needs to be more trust built, or the power differentials need to change in order for that discussion to grow, I guess, is the other side of it for me. So kind of a long-winded way of saying, really, it's about power differentials, that until there's real equity-- and we could get into the whole politic of New York State. It becomes really specific really fast.
And so then how do we have a nurturing, generous, intellectual space with these concepts that are so important to our ongoing formation as Haudenosaunee people in an environment that is predominantly hostile. We have a little safe space for this one moment at the Johnson Museum. And we experience those little sort of islands of safe spaces in our lives.
But in total, America isn't really that much of a safe space for Indigenous peoples. And either is the Academy. So for me, there's that. I didn't know if you wanted that, but that's what it is.
MARIE WATT: No, thank you.
JOLENE RICKARD: And so we have some time for-- well, we have just a few minutes if anybody wanted to post a question in chat or if you wanted to make a comment. Or Leslie, I don't know if you wanted to. Maybe Leslie could have the final observation or question because Leslie is also a culture maker, I believe, who's bringing the Seneca and our people forward. But-- hi, Leslie.
LESLIE LOGAN: Sorry, I'm here.
JOLENE RICKARD: There she is.
LESLIE LOGAN: Well, I'll tell you what. The plain truth of it is, I think the conversations that you're having about-- on the more intellectual level and the scaffolding and whatnot, that's the entire reason why I thought that you should moderate this because I am more of like an on-the-ground layman's term person who appreciates the work and all of what you both do from a pure-- from a community level, from sort of just a community person and completely understanding and appreciating, particularly the relationships and the stories that are told, particularly that I relate to with Hayden's work, that there's so much of the embedded history and the interrelationships between, not just the antlers and the deer, that we're people of the deer, that those are our cousins.
I'm a member of the deer clan as well. But that there's so much appreciation that it goes back to the roots of the relationships between the animals and then the grandmothers and the mothers. That's what speaks to me. And I hate to say this, but sort of all of this other business, frankly, it's a little bit beyond me.
And so I can't really speak to the deeper meanings that you're getting to and the power differentials. I mean, we talk about the politics of New York State, of course. That's another whole-- that's another matter, and we could go into a whole different area for hours on end. But I guess, from my perspective, I just so appreciate, really, the extent and the deep stories that you tell that really relate to the people and to telling our stories that go way back, not just ancestrally, but within our families. That's what I really appreciate and I see and I relate to.
JOLENE RICKARD: Well, thank you. I would just add, Leslie, that I wanted to bring you into the conversation because I think part of what the artwork does is it continues to make the vitality of our culture visible. And I do think that there's a responsibility for scholars to actually make their work legible.
And so I think it's really important if some of the ideas that we're grappling with aren't transparent within our communities that we need to find a better language to discuss these ideas in. Because everybody has the ability to understand these ideas. We use this language, I think, in the Academy as a kind of shortcut-- some people call it a conceit-- to speak about these ideas efficiently.
But I think we have to be very sensitive to not developing, to not being so distant from making the ideas meaningful for our people. And so that's, I think, why it's important to keep a large body of people in the conversation. And I think that should be a tenet of Indigenous studies because the art is certainly there for us to reflect on. And it is visible. And we can all understand it. And so the companion ideas with it has to, I think, the same way. So that's my take.
But I think we're probably at time this afternoon. And it's been just a wealth of thought from both Marie and from Hayden. And I really appreciate the time you took to actually share with us your thought process and what's happening. And I hope we have more opportunities to continue the conversation because I feel like it's just a beginning.
LESLIE LOGAN: I would just like to make a suggestion, particularly to Hayden. I would think it would be really wonderful to, as Jolene has suggested, to extend these conversations into the community where there can be more of a shared understanding and appreciation for the deeper, embedded stories and the relationships and some of these ideas and significance with our community members because you really don't hear that.
And it's almost sort of an us-them kind of mentality that, oh, it's beyond my realm of understanding. And as you state, it's really not. It's just that there are few opportunities, I think, for our community members to engage in some of these conversations. And so we need to bring them home.
JOLENE RICKARD: Yeah. We can with this e-streaming because it will have a permanent link in Cornell's archive. And so we will be able to share more broadly.
But we're at the end of our taping right now. And thanks to everybody for joining us this afternoon and certainly to Marie and Hayden and of course to Leslie for providing a great context. And I guess I'll see Marie in New York and hope to see Hayden maybe at Storytellers this weekend.
LESLIE LOGAN: [INAUDIBLE]. And thank you, Annmarie, as well. [INAUDIBLE].
HAYDEN HAYNES: [INAUDIBLE] everyone.
LESLIE LOGAN: [INAUDIBLE]
HAYDEN HAYNES: [INAUDIBLE]
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
Artists Marie Watt and Hayden Haynes explore the relationship between their respective practices and the artistic and cultural traditions of the Seneca Nation, including the importance of everyday objects, storytelling, and the power of collaborative artwork and teaching.
This event was held in conjunction with the exhibition Storywork: Prints by Marie Watt from the Collections of Jordan Schnitzer and His Family Foundation at the Johnson Museum (February11 July 30, 2023).
Marie Watt (Seneca, Turtle Clan) is a multimedia artist and a member of the Seneca Nation (one of six that comprise the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) with German-Scots ancestry. Her interdisciplinary work, drawing from history, biography, Iroquois oral narratives, and Indigenous teachings, explores the intersection of history, community, and storytelling. Through collaborative actions, she instigates multigenerational and cross-disciplinary conversations that might create a lens and conversation for understanding connectedness to place, one another, and the universe.
Hayden Haynes (Seneca, Deer Clan) is an antler carver, mixed media artist, and photographer, and a member of the Seneca Nation. His artwork is a blend of past and present Seneca-Haudenosaunee culture and pays homage to the ancestors that inspire him, highlighting contemporary issues that contemporary Indigenous peoples face while celebrating their strengths. He pushes the boundaries of what is considered Native American art and focuses on amplifying women’s voices, honoring their role in Seneca (or Onöndowa’ga:’) communities. His Message from our Ancestors (2021) was acquired for the permanent collection of the Johnson Museum.
Moderator ;Dr. Jolene K. Rickard (Ska:rù:re’/Tuscarora, Turtle Clan) is an artist and associate professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies and the American Studies Program at Cornell University.