SHADOW AND REFLECTION:
VISIONS OF FLORIDA’S
OCTOBER 8 – NOVEMBER 27, 2011
The Morean Arts Center
719 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Our collaborative art exhibition opened on October 8 at the Morean Arts Center in St. Pete, and ran through Thanksgiving weekend. Response was tremendous, and we want to thank everyone who supported our project and visited the show.
Here’s a description:
This exhibition by photographic artist Suzanne Williamson and writer John Capouya re-envisions the past with images and words inspired by their exploration of Florida’s Native American mound sites. Using photographs printed on transparent fabric, metal and paper, as well as creative nonfiction texts, they create an installation—an environment—that illuminates the multiple meanings of these monuments.
The photographic process renders the three-dimensional world in a flattened, two-dimensional image. In this installation Williamson’s black-and-white images–along with Capouya’s vignettes, projected onto the gallery walls–expand the mounds back into three tangible dimensions.
These Native American heritage sites are living history–America’s pyramids. When entering this installation viewers will feel something like that atmosphere, charged with history and possibility, as they confront another special space that’s been transformed.
See the Williamson/Capouya press page on the Morean site: http://www.moreanartscenter.org/news.php?id=2805
To view Suzanne’s images from the show and project, see the “Gallery” page.
Below, some examples of John’s writing from Shadow and Reflection. These short texts or vignettes (all 128 words or less) were projected into the gallery spaces.
Common Ground: On Florida’s Native American Heritage Sites
©John Capouya 2011
Dirt cathedrals, they’re lowly and lofty, natural and artificial. Stolidly of the earth, mounds only exist to rise up from it.
Shapely plain, ancient Indian mounds persist and endure. Yet they embody change, Nature transformed, these beautiful ruins.
Stare at the slope of this huge shell mound outside Cedar Key and a face–an animal or person made monster–emerges. Protruding roots become bugging eyes and moss its pelt.
This thing, male, is probably 4,500 years old; before pottery was made here, it lived.
One side of its mouth is open, discharging a cascade of clamshells and half-oysters that pours down, above and before you, 25 feet or more. Or he could be ingesting, inhaling them, the way Saturn eats his son…
Why do we say a building is this or that many “stories” high? It may go back to the Middle Ages when European churches had tale-telling stained glass windows at each level.
Indian mounds are narrative piles, layers of story lain horizontally with sand, shell and bones.
For hundreds or thousands of years, those stories have pressed, settled, and leached into each other.
When scientists incise downward to cut a tubed core sample, what chopped plots, speech fragments and mangled characters must they remove?
The lightning whelk, native to Florida coasts, is a huge snail. Its shell, up to a foot long, opens to the left–a rarity.
When the Tocobaga and Manasota of Tampa Bay ran a stick through it, the wide end of this tapered cone became a powerful hammer. The pointed end was a pick, used to dig canoes out of charred trees. Just a quarter-inch thick, the once-living matter gave but didn’t shatter.
These valuable shells were traded as far away as Michigan and Oklahoma, exchanged for copper.
Hefting a replica hammer and chopping in a short arc, I feel a surging centrifugal pull, and a gorgeous menace.
Consider the will, the shared purpose of the people living near the southern end of Lake Miccosukee more than 1000 years ago.
With no wheels, no pack animals or metal tools, they carried earth one basketful at a time–millions of trips–to create a pyramidal ceremonial mound 50 feet high and 250 feet in diameter.
We don’t know who did the work (was it the men? the women and children?), just that these people moved four million cubic feet of matter.
They set their intention, as the Buddhists say, and made it manifest.