By Ramon Shiloh
I have been invited to contribute three colored pencil illustrated stories on archival atlas maps ranging from the 17-1800s by Chris Morin of Raven Makes Gallery located in Sister’s Oregon (three hours southeast of Portland).
The gallery represents over thirty Indigenous Artists with impressive growth trajectories over the next year. Chris is embarking on numerous scaled projects representing Native creators from around the world. This initiative is titled “The Homelands Collection” which focuses on illustrated stories on antique atlas, regional, and territorial maps and was a revelation that came by accident. According to his website:
“On occasion during the past 30 years, some artists have used a few antique maps rather than ledger paper, with these works occurring in the spirit of contemporary ledger art. However, a show or exhibition featuring antique maps as the singular medium has not occurred.
Last year’s pandemic caused many of us to come to a halt. As the crisis unfolded, there wasn’t much we could do except restrict our activities. Hunkered down, opportunities for more thorough reflection occurred. For the owners of Raven Makes Gallery, a number of those moments concerned contemplating the suddenly unforeseeable future of Native American art.
In early May 2020, while surfing the Internet as our gallery stood closed by order of the Governor, we happened upon a fascinating 1860’s map of the Upper Great Plains that identified several tribes. The thought occurred, “Wouldn’t it be great if a ledger artist could make a work on this?” With more time to reflect, the notion wasn’t pushed aside as it might normally have been.”
As a result, Chris has developed a profound collection of unique world maps, giving living Indigenous Artists a placeholder and platform to be seen and heard. Chris Morin and his wife, LaRita Chapman have lived in Chinle, Arizona and Alaska since 2016 and have developed lasting relationships with many Indigenous Artists, their families, and communities of people. Their appreciation of First Nations Peoples’ awareness and deep cultural connections are represented with respect through Raven Makes Gallery. The space is intended to provide opportunities, support for Artists, as well as cultural, spiritual, and natural expressions.
Throughout history many white gallery owners have used Native art for monetary gains, theft of intellectual property, and instant identity gratification. This has contributed toxic business practices and robbed tribal and intertribal connections from retaining money or acknowledgement to their respected creations for many generations. Chris and LaRita’s practices are not in line with these traditions, and they hold respect in many Native circles. Their purpose is to engage visitors and clients in exploring the outstanding beauty and integrity of Native American art forms to appropriately and respectfully patron the creators.
I have been invited to work on two Oregon maps (18”x 22”/ 3 ½ x 5 ½) and one of the United States (11” x 18”). I will be representing Native American perspectives and spiritual belief systems that are our “way of life”. As a representative of my mother’s work and a continuation of our culture I will be creating pieces that reflect authenticity and authority in Native activism.
The paper strength of each map is very weak and translucent. No room for error if multiple mistakes are made. This is a project I need to be thorough in my storytelling delivery as well as technique. Wish me luck! Deadline is December 31st.
To know more about Raven Makes Gallery and to see their extensive collection. Go to their Website