Sunday, May 18, 2014

Taos Pueblo: Ancestral Places, Sacred Spaces. The Photography.


Welcome to Wings's online photography exhibition from his recent one-man show, Taos Pueblo: Ancestral Places, Sacred Spaces.

Below, you will find digital versions of each of the photographs that appeared in the exhibit.

During the period of Wings's exhibit, as you entered the coffeehouse at the Jean Cocteau Cinema, you would have seen photographs arrayed on the walls to your immediate left, and across the room on the right.

Mindful that people read English from left to right, Wings placed his images in a particular order beginning on the left wall, each image a chapter in the larger story he wished to tell. Seven photographs (five smaller; two larger) hung on the longer space on the left; three large ones were evenly spaced on the shorter wall to the right.

Each photograph was accompanied by interpretive text beneath it, providing context for the image from his personal perspective. I've reproduced his text here, beneath each image, followed by size and pricing information.

Please note:  The smaller photographs themselves, as originally produced, were 11" by 14"; the larger ones were 12" by 18". Some minute cropping occurred prior to production, and matting further reduced the visible images by about an inch overall: The visible image of the smaller photographs is roughly 10.5" by 13.5"; of the larger ones, it is roughly 11.5" by 17.5". Each photograph is signed on the lower right corner of the white matting, and reads "Wings, 2014; People of the Red Willow." The smaller photographs are framed in a rich brown wood; the larger ones, in a black wood that was ordered specially for these pieces.

The smaller photographs are $625 each, plus $100 shipping, handling, and insurance. The larger ones are $775 each, plus $125 shipping, handling, and insurance. Special packaging and handling are required to ensure safe transit. For unusual circumstances, such as overseas shipments, the cost will be higher.

PRINTS

We also have 8" by 10" prints of each of these photographs, made available in a limited run of 100. Each is signed and numbered on the reverse, no matting, backing, or framing. Cost is $100 per print, plus $10 shipping, handling, and insurance.

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Now, come with us. Let us take you on a tour of the ancestral places and sacred spaces of Wings's people and culture and everyday life.



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STORIES

Our lives are lived in stories — and in stories.

Perhaps the first thing visitors to Taos Pueblo notice about our historic multi-level architecture is that it is multi-level — our ancestors, a thousand years ago, divided homes into stories in larger communal buildings.

In a way, each story is symbolic of the other kind of story: the little piece of our collective history written by each family, each inhabitant, of each of these stories made of earth and straw.  If you look closely, you can see each individual piece of straw embedded in the adobe wall, each essential to the wall’s strength and cohesiveness and ability to stand, whole.

So, too, is each of our people: Individuals, with their own lives and histories and roles to play in our culture and in the historical narrative of our people.  Each unique, each with his or her own story — and each essential to our strength and cohesiveness and ability to stand, whole.


Signed on white matting; brown wooden frame.
Size including frame:  17.75" by 20.25".
$625 + $100 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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SUSTENANCE

The earth feeds us, nourishes us.  Whether at planting time, with the help of the Corn Maidens; during the monsoon season, when the rain kachinas aid tilling and cultivation; at harvest time, the blessings and bounty extracted from the earth under the watchful eyes of our ancestors; or through the long winter months, warming the food the earth gives us throughout the rest of the year.

The hornos, the earthen ovens, are used year-round:  for baking Pueblo bread for ceremonies and feast days; for cooking food for families; even for firing the micaceous pots that our artisans have made for millennia and still use for cooking and storage.

A little soot marks the opening, where tendrils of heat reach outside, but the oven is swept and kept spotlessly clean, ready for use whenever the need arises.  Burlap covers the entry, blocked by a stone; two wooden boards serve as the baking platform when in use. It’s an icon of our culture, of sustenance, mixing and melding food and earth in the warmth of home and family, in the way of my mother, and her mother, and her mother before her, into the mists of ancestral memory.

Signed on white matting; brown wooden frame.
Size including frame:  17.75" by 20.25".
$625 + $100 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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MUD AND VIGAS

Several years ago, I took a series of photographs that I named Walls and Windows.  It was an exploration of Taos Pueblo’s famed architecture up close, focusing not on the iconic “macro” imagery seen everywhere, but instead, on its constituent elements.  This one had special resonance for me.

The building of which this wall is a part is at least 800 years old. This same wall — this same home — has stood all that time, through temperatures up to 100 and down to forty below, through flooding monsoonal rains and blizzards and raging windstorms, maintaining its essential structural integrity and identity.  Built of our local earth, shored up by vigas cut from the forests of our lands, it has housed and protected its family even unto the seventh generation and beyond. Every few years, the adobe is resurfaced, and beneath the vigas, the fresh mudding shows.  Both new and old, it’s a refacing and refreshing that keeps the whole intact, yet it’s done using the same earth the original masons used in building.  It’s yet another way our ancestors touch our hands from beyond, guiding us, protecting us, preserving the old ways for future generations in the most fundamental sense:  Shelter.  Home.

Signed on white matting; black wooden frame.
Size including frame:  18.5" by 24.25".
$775 + $125 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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CORNERSTONE

Summer is mudding time:  It’s the time that individual families, when they can afford it, repair and resurface their homes. Sometimes it’s a whole refacing; other times, as here, it’s a structural repair.

A cornerstone in the most essential, existential sense, this fresh adobe flange supports the wall of a family home while supporting a cultural tradition going back more than a thousand years.  The fresh adobe is still a deep and brilliant red, and on the left, bears a newly-applied patch of mud, still wet from the mason’s trowel.

The shadow cast by the light of the late-afternoon summer sun doubles the presence of the Plant Spirit, standing sentry on either side of the fresh earthen cornerstone. 


Signed on white matting; black wooden frame.
Size including frame:  18.5" by 24.25".
$775 + $125 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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INTERSTICES

Arbors are a traditional feature of Pueblo life, and they capture the essence of our contemporary existence perfectly.  Built by hand of native piƱon logs, spaced a few inches apart.  Arbor “roofs" were used as drying racks — for plants, for meat, for hides. 

The structures provide shelter and shadow from the heat of the summer sun, protecting us from dangerous external effects.  Yet the design still allows air and light to enter, allowing us room to breathe and grow and adapt to survive.

For a people who must walk in two worlds, as Native peoples do today, it is in the shadows and the interstices where our identities live and thrive.

Signed on white matting; brown wooden frame.
Size including frame:  17.75" by 20.25".
$625 + $100 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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THRESHOLD

I entitled this Threshold because it evokes such an ominous feeling of portentousness, of momentousness: as though once one steps through the doorway, over the threshold of the church courtyard, there will be no turning back.

To a great degree, so it was, and so it remains. 

After 500 years, that cross is now a part of our lives, of our contemporary culture, of our Pueblo itself.  But it was not always so, and some of us retain the ancestral memories of the day before the arrival of the cross and the sword, the day of our pure red earth.

And so we choose not to cross that threshold, or to recross it in the other direction, out into the fresh air and budding trees and dusty earth and warm light of our essential selves.

Signed on white matting; brown wooden frame.
Size including frame:  17.75" by 20.25".
$625 + $100 shipping, handling, and insurance.

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THE REAL SACRED SPACE

I originally titled this Hope Lives Beyond.

My focus then was on the colonizing of our lands, our soil, our spirits, the taking of our sacred red earth and using it to build a temple to a god that was not ours. Under the guise of an entryway, forcing us behind a wall that trapped us with a vengeful spirit from a distant continent and kept our own spirits outside, outcast.  And all of it, whitewashed, literally and metaphorically, covering the red of our earth, like the red of our skins, with the white of a colonizing force.

Then, I was focused on the prospect that hope for our future lay beyond that whitewashed wall.

Today, that still holds true, but now, my focus lies further beyond: beyond the dusty tracks of the plaza where our people gather; beyond the red-earth walls and roofs of Hlaukwima, our South House; beyond to one of the real sacred spaces of our people.  To the mountain:  to the wild game and plant medicine it nourishes; to the forest that provides wood for our homes, our safety, our traditional needs; and to the sky that holds the thunderheads of summer, bringing the rain that sustains us.

Signed on white matting; brown wooden frame.
Size including frame:  17.75" by 20.25".
$625 + $100 shipping, handling, and insurance.
RESERVED.


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BRICKS

Brick and mortar.  In the era of the Internet, it’s become shorthand for saying that something exists in the real world.

In my world, this is as real as it gets.

This was taken as part of my Walls and Windows series; it’s a close-up of the exterior wall of a home, built with adobe bricks made by hand in the traditional way and mortared using the same earth. It’s an apt metaphor for our people and our ways:  our very existence, built of the earth beneath our feet, shaped carefully by hand and fitted meticulously together.  As time passes, chinks and cracks appear in the interstices as the earth returns to dust and falls away — only to be gathered again, mixed with straw and the sacred water that gives us life, reconstituted, reconstructed, recreated.  Strong, solid, and resilient, as our people remain.

Signed on white matting; black wooden frame.
Size including frame:  18.5" by 24.25".
$775 + $125 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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INGRESS/EGRESS

“The act of entering”/”the act of leaving a place.”

Today, our homes have doors, but that is something new, within the last century.  Traditionally, the way to enter or leave our homes was through the roof.  The last person to enter at night would pull the ladder down into the home, keeping the family safe inside.  Along with our pioneering construction of perimeter walls, roof entry was an architectural innovation that enabled a peaceful agricultural people to remain for a thousand years in one of the most fertile, resource-rich, naturally prosperous environments in the desert Southwest.  Now, the ladders remain as a reminder of our ancestors’ creativity, resourcefulness, and dedication to protecting each other and preserving our way of life.

Signed on white matting; black wooden frame.
Size including frame:  18.5" by 24.25".
$775 + $125 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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EMERGENCE

It is who we are; how we came to be.

It is our history and identity, captured in one image.

Up from the darkened depths, rung by rung, on a ladder built of the same materials with which the spirits have blessed us.

Rung by rung, out of the darkness, seeing first the warming of the red earth in the golden light as we rise.

Rung by rung, up into this world, reaching for the turquoise sky.

We repeat this ritual daily in our homes, in our ceremony, in our lives.

It reminds us that we are Red Willow, the People of Taos Pueblo, and we live in the light of a thousand years of tradition.

Signed on white matting; black wooden frame.
Size including frame:  18.5" by 24.25".
$775 + $125 shipping, handling, and insurance.


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All photos copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.  All text copyright Wings and Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.  None of this content may be used without the express written consent of the owner.

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