Women have often been neglected in written histories, though they were usually the ones who held societies together through strife, upheaval and change. The Ancestral Women project was conceived to portray the strength of ancestral women around the world, both elders and their contemporaries, and to honor their journeys.
The first phase of this larger project is Ancestral Women: Elders from Wisconsin’s 12 Tribes. The exhibit features women elders from each of Wisconsin’s 12 Native American tribes, 11 of which are federally recognized, and one, the Brothertown Nation, which is seeking federal status.
The project began several years ago when I decided to weave an image of Emma Pettibone, a Ho-Chunk woman, taken by H.H. Bennett in the early 1900s. I purchased one-time rights to use the image from the Wisconsin Historical Society and began to develop the design, as well as to do research on the Ho-Chunk people. I eventually also drew out the geometric design from the textiles Emma wears (her shawl was most likely silk appliqué) to emphasize their beauty.
As I worked, I began to realize that I didn't want the weaving to be a direct depiction of the photograph — I wanted it to be part of something larger and more meaningful. So, what began as a single piece evolved over time into the Ancestral Women project. I hoped the project would be a means of honoring women throughout the world, but I felt I should begin by honoring women in Wisconsin. The most deeply rooted ancestral women in our state would be, of course, Native American.
The inspiration for the full exhibit then evolved further to not only include portraits of women elders from all of Wisconsin's tribes, but also their clan symbols and cultural landscape pieces.
I've contacted all of the Native tribes in Wisconsin to discuss the project and ask if they would be interested in participating. Each tribe that has responded has approached the project differently. Most have presented the idea to a tribal council or to a cultural committee which decided whom they would like included in the project. Sometimes the Elder has been a historical figure, but often the person is more contemporary.
As of 7/17/16, many of the weavings are completed, but I still have a number of pieces to finish. Once the pieces are done, they all need to be framed. The exhibit structure also needs to be made as des the audio and written story of each elder. I'm tying myself to my loom to get the rest done by mid-September in time for the 9/30/16 opening at the Center for Visual Arts in Wausau, WI! Even if you can't donate to this project, please come to the opening - I hope it will be a remarkable experience.
We expect the exhibit to travel to other Midwestern museums and galleries over the next few years. And perhaps it will strike a rich enough chord to travel much farther.
How your funding helps
Exhibits are expensive endeavors. The money raised from this Kickstarter campaign will go directly to:
- Framing the weavings
- Exhibit lighting
- Building the circular structure on which the weavings will be displayed
- Building a bench to be placed inside the structure
- Audio recordings: the purchase of iPods and an audio recorder so that an audio narration can accompany the exhibit
Please go to my website www.ancestralwomen.com for more details. Thank you for checking out this Kickstarter!
Risks and challenges
The shipping and delivery of the exhibit to different venues may be a challenge. At this point, we will probably deliver the work ourselves by renting a van. But if we garner nation-wide venues, we would need to ship the exhibit, which requires creating packaging. Most likely we would work with a company that specializes in shipping and handling in order to facilitate this.
A stretch goal, or Phase Two, is to create a book to accompany the exhibit. This would require additional funding.
The greatest risk, of course, is that this is my first Kickstarter project, and it is solely my exhibit. While I don't have any other partners I need approval from, that also means I'm responsible for everything! Though an art exhibit might not look that complex from the outside, from the inside there are many moving pieces that must be decided upon, created and finalized - from the lighting, structure, and framing to the weavings themselves.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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