"A herd of anything has much more impact than one." -Armond Lara
form & concept gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico presents a Kickstarter campaign, anchored by an open house and panel discussion event, in support of Armond Lara’s Flying Blue Buffalo Project.
The fundraiser will go towards the creation of a monumental installation of winged buffalo sculptures in form & concept's atrium. Based on a series of wood carvings by Lara, the sculptures will be scanned and printed using the latest 3D imaging technology. The buffalo will then be cast in resin and hand-painted under Armond's supervision.
Inspired by the Santa Fe artist’s family history, this project tells the centuries-long story of enslaved Native American children. Lara's studies of this little-told history lead to the conception of the Flying Blue Buffalo, a new symbol of Indigenous survival and resilience. 75 buffalo wil then be cast in resin and hand-finished under Armond’s supervision.
The Flying Blue Buffalo Project Kickstarter campaign launches on Friday, January 26 from 5-7 pm and runs through February 28. Mock-ups of the buffalo sculptures will appear at a February 17 open house event, and Lara will convene a panel of history experts to discuss the project and its themes. The installation will debut in form & concept’s atrium on August 17, 2018, and run through November 2018.
Rewards for smaller contributions include Flying Blue Buffalo stickers, postcards and a signed, limited edition print. Bigger contributors will be rewarded with hand-painted cast resin Flying Blue Buffalo sculptures. Some of the larger sculpture rewards will appear in the Flying Blue Buffalo installation while others won't, so make sure to pay attention to the "estimated delivery" information in the Rewards details. If your piece appears in the installation, it will be available after the works are de-installed in November 2018.
“Buffalo are masters of survival,” says Armond Lara. “They’re still around today, even though we tried our best to kill them all off.” The Santa Fe artist has depicted buffalo in his drawings, paintings and sculptures for decades. In recent years, they’ve turned blue and sprouted wings. The winged blue buffalo reference a dark chapter of Lara’s family history: his grandmother, who was Navajo, was kidnapped as a child and forced into servitude by a Mexican family. This was a common story in the region now known as the Western United States. Across three centuries of Spanish, Mexican and American rule, thousands to millions of Native children were enslaved as household servants or fieldhands.
The Pueblo people called these abducted youths “lost bluebirds,” a symbol that Lara combined with the buffalo into a new icon of Indigenous survival. This August, he’ll collaborate with form & concept to fulfill his long-held dream of creating a monumental installation of flying blue buffalo sculptures that explores this little-told history. The Flying Blue Buffalo Project Kickstarter campaign, running January 26 through February 28 and anchored by a special event on February 17, will raise funds to support the production of over seventy hand painted, cast resin sculptures, based on a series of wood carvings by Lara.
“My grandmother didn’t talk much, but if she did talk, you listened,” says Lara. He’s known the story of his grandmother’s abduction for as long as he can remember, but it wasn’t until recently that he learned how common the practice was. “My sister was doing genealogy research on the family, and she found a list of all the Native American kids who had been ‘adopted’ by Mexican families in the Four Corners area,” says Lara. “It dawned on me, whoa, this is really widespread. That’s when I started asking other people about it.” He learned about the kidnapping and enslavement of an enormous number of Native American children over several centuries—from the 1600s when the Spanish arrived, through the period of Mexican Independence, until the late 1800s under the government of the United States.
A number of Lara’s close friends revealed that they too had ancestors who were taken. For Lara, this growing web of stories reminded him of his grandmother’s resilience, which has been an enduring source of inspiration. “I looked to my grandparents for guidance. The strongest voice was my grandmother’s voice,” Lara says. “She didn’t talk about it, she just did it. If she needed something, she’d make it. If she needed a robe, she’d weave one. I really admired that quality.” He dreamed up an art installation and storytelling project that might communicate this ethos, and inspire people to learn more about their heritage. A series of five winged blue buffalo marionettes that Lara carved from wood over a number of years became central conceptual elements. With the help of his frequent collaborator Joseph Riggs, an artist and retired attorney who lives in Santa Fe, Lara pitched the idea to form & concept. The gallery commissioned a digital model and several mock-ups of the buffalo from Albuquerque based 3D Proven Systems, while Lara and Riggs started gathering stories for the project.
“I’ve lived in the Southwest my whole life, and I was unfamiliar with the story,” says Riggs. “You can’t find it in history books in New Mexico, but as I learned, there were slave markets all across this region. It became a deep part of the culture of the Southwest.” Riggs says the scale of the installation is vital to the project, because it communicates the staggering number of children, families and communities affected by the issue. Each of the 70 buffalo sculptures will represent the story of one “Lost Bluebird,” with oral and written accounts of their fight for survival. “People in New Mexico have been searching for a way to explore this part of their family history,” Riggs says. “They can take pride in the fact that they’re Hispanic, and they’re Native American, and they’re American. There’s so much division in our country. We need to find ways to show our unity, to show how much we’re alike rather than how we’re different. And I think we can do it through this story.”
form & concept launches a Kickstarter campaign on January 26 to raise funds for the project. The campaign is anchored by an in-gallery event on February 17 featuring mock-ups of the buffalo and a panel discussion with Lara, Riggs and to-be-announced local historians. “We’ve represented Armond’s work for years, and are so excited to help bring his long-held dream to fruition,” says Sandy Zane, Owner of Zane Bennett Contemporary Art and form & concept. “Contributors to this Kickstarter will help us produce dozens of reproductions which will fill the atrium in form & concept. They’ll also receive some great perks at different levels of support, including buffalo sculptures from the installation.”
Learn more about this project.
RSVP for the panel discussion on Facebook.
Risks and challenges
In many ways, this project is already in progress. Armond Lara and Joseph Riggs have been working on the storytelling component of the piece, contacting families whose ancestors were affected by this issue and gathering their stories. form & concept has funded the creation of digital models of three Flying Blue Buffalo carvings that will be used to make the installation, and Lara is prepared to start hand-painting the 3D printed pieces as soon as we begin production.
The major challenge we face is the monumental scale of the installation. The idea for this project started with the story of Lara's grandmother, but expanded in scope to encompass the stories of many other families. In order to bring this 300-year history into focus—and also shed light on the individual tales of the Lost Bluebirds and their families—Lara has conceived of an immersive visual and auditory experience that can only be completed with your help.
It's a staggering project to produce, but we routinely fill our gallery with hundreds of art objects from around the world for ambitious group exhibitions. Once we've raised the funds to create the 3D-printed sculptures, our expert team will spring into action. form & concept Director Frank Rose and Exhibitions Coordinator Brad Hart will work out the logistics for installing the sculptures and audio system, Marketing Manager Jordan Eddy will further promote the opening reception of the show, and Riggs and Lara will complete the storytelling project. We're confident that with your help, the buffalo will take flight this August!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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