Q: What inspires you to create your art?
A: I have made art since I can remember. Now, it is more about leaving something of the Wabanaki/Abenaki heritage behind after we pass. I have always needed to create. It is like breathing for me. Doesn't matter what media or what craft, I just have to make something. Now it is more about leaving our foot print on history.
Q: Why gourds as your canvas?
A: My hand were injured and I could no longer hold small pieces of pastel or other things, For three years I struggled with not being able to create. It was the worst three years of my life. I had taken a course on gourds and had both a book and unfinished gourd in my studio. I decided if I couldn't make art anymore, I might as well clean out my studio. In doing so, I came across the book and gourd again and began looking gourds up on the internet. I discovered I could use rotary tools to help replace the strength I had lost in my hands. This was about the same time I became interested in Wabanaki designs. Gourds come from the earth and return to the earth if allowed to do so. It was as if everything came together. My spiritual self loves planting and watching plants grow. The product became my canvas and my canvas is a record of our history.
Q: What does it feel like to create art from a living gourd that you grew?
A: I love having my hands in the cool moist earth. There is something very spiritual about planting and caring for gourds (or any plants). The earth gives birth to these plants and leaves them with us to be taken care of. In return, we are rewarded with a natural canvas that has served us in many ways: dippers, bowls, canteens, spoons, powder horns, and many other useful items.
Q: Are there any other mediums that you have worked with or plan to in the future?
A: In the past I worked with many media. As a public school art teacher, it was necessary to work in many media. I had a photo on the cover of the CT ARts Magazine, won a national competition from the American Pastel Association and have regularly won small prizes in the past in drawing, painting and watercolor. Now, I don't compete because that just isn't important to me any more. And while I would like to earn enough money to subsidize what I do, it is no longer about being rich and famous. My mission is much higher then that. It is a spiritual experience which is my greatest reward. When I work, it is like visiting with our ancestors. Depending upon the project, their presence is sometimes very strong.
Q: What feelings or emotions do you want your art to envoke in the Abenaki and non-indigenous communities?
A: I want the indigenous family to recognize themselves through our visual language. To be proud of the designs we use on our regalia or other items. I want our People to feel confident that this is our cultural heritage and that we all share in it. I hope that the non-indigenous people will become curious about us and realize we are still here. We are not lost to history, but are still a living, breathing tribe.
Copyright 2013 VERMONT ABENAKI ARTIST ASSOCIATION. All rights reserved.