Sing me your story, Dance me home,” an art and poetry show representing California’s Native people opened Friday night at the CSUN art gallery.
Alan Salazar, a spiritual advisor and educator of Chumash and Tatavian descent, performed a ceremonial blessing for the show.
The art show exhibits stories, songs and dance of the California Native’s, especially featuring poetry, painting, basketry, sculpture and photography. Many of the artists use their mediums to explore issues such as racism, family identity, tradition, conflict and socioeconomics and culture.
A piece that stands out immediately upon entering the room is Rick Bartow’s “Mortal Crow.” A giant crow hovers near the top, its wings wrapped in protection around an eerie pyramid of skulls. Bartow’s piece evokes a creepy, Edward Gory or Tim Burton type feel, and as you look at it you can’t help but think, cool! While still looking behind you in a paranoid state.
Bartow’s other another piece in the exhibit is equally creepy but more colorful. The pastel and charcoal drawing called “Predator’s Dream.” Bartow keeps with the theme with the crow, but in this piece the crow is translucent and has a disembodied head inside of it. The head is gaping in pain, and like the crow in Bartow’s other painting, these entities have a stoic watchful eye.
James Luna’s light box photograph titled “Apparitions 1,” is a visual representation of family heritage. Five men of varying age and descent hold up musical instruments to the sky. The sky in the photograph has been digitally manipulated to show an older portrait of similar content, except the men in the sky were photographed in a much earlier era.
The portrait serves as a visual reminder that there is a definitive relationship between past and present when it involves family; surroundings may change, but heritage and ancestry do not.
Another piece in this show that represents family is Frank Lapena’s “Edge of the Earth People: Protecting Ourselves.” The acrylic painting shows softly drawn animals and skulls attacking an adult figure, while a baby is swaddled up in a crow’s wings. The painting sends the message that details the vulnerability of humans, yet the adult figure serves as a protective figure for the innocence of new life, as seen within the baby.
A more surreal piece is Mike Rodriguez’s “Chawewut,” a spray paint and enamel painting of a deer with a weirdly twisted human grin. “Chawewut” looks like a cross between the creature in “Donnie Darko” and one of Frida Kahlo’s surrealist portraits. A yellow background surrounds the vividly colored deer, and its wide humanistic teeth are flying off the canvas in an uncomfortable sprint of color.
“Chawewut” is a good reminder of how art can help blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy and give life to mythological stories. Chawewut is a Luiseno spirit being of San Diego County.
A more traditional piece of art is Jean Lamaar’s giclee print “Going Back to the Rez.” A colorful green truck stands out against a background of purple mountains, and the truck is carrying four native people in its cargo. It is hard to tell in this piece if the people being carried back to the reservation are happy or sad, which causes a momentary case of wonder as you imagine how you might feel in a situation like that.
“Sing me your story, dance me home” is free, and will remain in the CSUN art gallery until November 17. An innovative audio tour is available to attendees by calling a toll-free number from a cell phone. Viewers dial the number, punch in a corresponding art number, and listen to a recorded message detailing the work’s history and background.
The CSUN art gallery is open Monday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., but on Thursdays the gallery remains open until 8 p.m. The gallery is closed on Sundays.
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