I went to my first sweat lodge, led by Eagle Spirit Woman, a Taino waterpourer in Tuxedo, NY, almost two decades ago with three other abuse survivors. Its cleansing power is such that I witnessed a burly, six-foot, ex-soldier and fireman break down after a lodge, disclosing his abuse by his father, who he said had bullied him into five Iraqi tours.
“Native Americans have advice if you need to grieve,” the healer working with the man said, “Dig a hole in the earth and cry into it.”
This series of works takes its name and inspiration from Native American and other indigenous practices that create opportunities to integrate trauma.
In this piece the viewer encounters a piece of piña – a table runner, suspended horizontally and illuminated by a light source on the far side of the cloth. This piña, embroidered with bucolic imagery, functions as a rear-projection screen and landscape onto which is refracted a circle of light resembling the iris of a human eye. This image appears at the center of the cloth/landscape, intermittently becoming distorted, then appearing more clearly, then distorting again over time. The sound of water droplets can be heard.
The sound and the light emanating from behind the translucency of the fabric draw the viewer to the other side of the piña screen, where the simple mechanics creating the sound and animation can be grasped. A U.S. Army camouflage jacket with an indigenous woven Filipino jacket inside it is slung over a piece of bamboo suspended from the ceiling above a plinth. Atop the plinth is a plain white plate. Tucked inside the jackets is an army helmet filled with dirt. In a small depression in the center of the dirt, ice sits melting under a flashlight. A braided lock of hair hangs between the helmet and the plate, which is lit by a larger flashlight. As the ice in the helmet melts, water slowly makes its way down the braid and drips onto the plate, to which a contact microphone is attached to amplify the sound of the droplets.