|HIGH GROUND 2
The high waters from the spring rains have receded (even though it seems to keep raining every second day) and the field out back is drying up. The stuffed bobcat is out of the pick-up and in my studio now, waiting to go into some art. And we've been kept busy turning over those provincial two sided rocks and looking for interesting stuff to share.*
But it has been a peculiar spring on the plateau. Eighty degree weather one weekend and snow the next. I put it down partly to this being an election year. In an interview in 1988 the American writer Don Delillo said, "Art is one of the consolation prizes we receive for having lived in a difficult and sometimes chaotic world." It seems particularly difficult and chaotic in America these days..
We artists have traditionally tended to shy away from politics ("art for art's sake" springs to mind) and although we sometimes vote (like good citizens should), we are not always prominent on the barricades. But these days, because we have (mostly) turned our back on politics, we are discovering that we are being used by politicians. The NEA is bleeding from severe budget cuts (in the interests of "purity") and pious politicians want to protect us from dubious web sites on the internet.
Many of us get uneasy over the fact that our ability to impact those important issues seems to keep receding from us, and we just get brought in to decorate a wall or to hang something over the Bauhaus sofa.
However as this issue of High Ground began to come together, much to our amazement (and pleasure) we found there was a political spin to many of the essays. They describe ways in which artists and groups of artists are working to regain some power over situations which affect us all. Associate editor Marilyn Lysohir's tales of the plateau artists of the Women's Caucus on the Arts and their adventures at the Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995, tell of the bravery and determination of women from around the world who wanted to meet together and would not be deterred by the geriatric male leaders of the People's Republic.
Thanks to a note from a supporter who brought it to our attention we asked Rebecca Huntington who writes on the arts for the Lewiston Tribune to describe the efforts of the Nez Perce tribe to regain a collection of historic artifacts from the Ohio State Historical Society. The OSHS don't mind the Nez Perce buying them back--- but only at current market value. Perhaps not exactly politics, but certainly good old 19th century robber baron capitalism. And up at Cheney-Cowles Museum we saw the installations of Charlene Teeters, a Spokane, whose work challenges Euro-American stereotypes of both Indians and of themselves.
Ben Mitchell, director of the Sheehan Gallery at Whitman College in Walla Walla introduces the work of Mark Ruwedel whose photographs of the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River hold up a mirror where we see our responsibilities reflected.
The director of the Idaho Center on the Book, Tom Trusky, talks about the curious book art of James Castle, a naive artist from southern Idaho. And there are more poems by Loretta Anawalt, our High Ground poet laureate. Loretta's most recent book of poems Dreamprints is to be published by Eastern Washingon University Press.
There always needs to be special places for artists to work and come together. On the plateau there are two of these places. One is the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena Montana. So many nationally known ceramic artists have been involved with the Foundation over the years, and so many younger artists have moved to the area, that it has become the center of a thriving art community. In May High Ground went to Helena and collected stories and reminiscences from many of the artists connected with "the Bray." And a very new institute was founded by James Lavadour on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Washington in 1992. It is called Crow's Shadow, and it was begun primarily to provide facilities and opportunities for Native American artists. High Ground spent a day with Lavadour and Director Marie Hall.
We continue to feature two Plateau artists each issue. This year it is the work of Cheryl Shurtleff from Boise and Sarah Jaeger from Helena.
We do have a pleasant piece of news. Mark Anderson of the Walla Walla Foundry who was interviewed in High Ground '95 has been awarded a Governor's Award for the State of Washington. Congratulations Mark, and we can't promise it for all of our subjects, but it's a good start!
A couple of notes. We had the prize drawing for the '95 print on the Spring Solstice at Bookpeople in Moscow and Bob Greene picked Tim McCarty (Pullman), Elyse Taylor (Brooklyn NY) and Crow's Shadow Institute (Pendleton). Congratulations.
We have added some new public spaces to What's Up on the Plateau. Thank you for calling them to our attention. Also a couple of you mentioned that you'd like the photos identified more clearly. We've tried to do it in this edition, and in the back pocket is some photo ID for High Ground '95. We do pay attention to our mail.
Again the people to thank...Roy de Young of Temel West in Boise who is our truly talented designer, all the authors, and the artists. Special thanks go to those of you who responded to our fund-raising efforts and thank you too...to all of you who were supportive of our vision and who bought High Ground '95. There are still a few copies of '95 left for newcomers to the plateau.
*If these references seem too opaque, check Page One, High Ground '95.