Appropriation is currently a very controversial topic, particularly when it involves First Nations art. It is no longer acceptable for artists of non-native descent to use aboriginal themes in their artwork.
Land rights concerning First Nations is also a current political hot topic, as well as environmental concerns and exploitation of natural resources relates to much of the land in question. I wanted to produce a piece of art in response to this.
I am highly influenced by Emily Carr’s work; I think that she was crucial in the documentation of aboriginal culture. Emily Carr, despite being a Caucasian woman has gained the respect of many critics for her brave efforts in creating visual documentation of totems poles, at a time in which Europeans were relocating many poles. However, nearly a century later Caucasians using native themes in their art are highly frowned upon.
I decided to use her piece Scorned as timber, beloved of the sky, as the basis for my piece, replacing the single freestanding tree with a Haida totem pole. To accentuate the exploitation of First Nations people, I placed a red native Jesus on the totem pole reminiscent of Paul Gauguin’s Yellow Christ. As an early expressionist painter Gauguin broke from European tradition and took the liberty of painting whatever he chose to paint, however he felt like painting it. His brave departure from socially acceptable art is a source of inspiration for the piece that I have created.
My intention for this piece is to make an outsider commentary on the exploitation of both First Nations’ art, and the exploitation/deforestation of the land, which once belonged to them.
I think that Dr. Seuss’s tale of the Lorax, and the destruction of the truffula trees is a well-known source of wisdom that correlates with environmental issues such as deforestation, as well as political issues such as the exploitation of Native cultures. The Lorax is intended to be a grounding point and an entrance for the average non-native viewer to partake in a commentary that they would not normally be invited to participate in.