“Good Luck Country”
collage, acrylic and oil on canvas
19 x 41 x 3″
2017, handmade frame with barnboard and leather from El Paso, TX
By Vanessa Compton
“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful,
and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”
My work is very much in response to this quote. I especially relate to the maximalist piece he is getting at when it comes to trying to understand this Nation’s history. I am deeply moved by the work of Bryan Stevenson, an American public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. Stevenson has said “we are a post genocide society” and I share this belief. I believe that the long and bloody slaughter of Indigenous people got us comfortable with and primed for hundreds of years of American slavery and an ideology of white supremacy that exists to this day. Stevenson has studied and written about how other countries have dealt with tragedy and has said “until we reckon with history we are not going to get free”. I really hold this close when it comes to making my work. In Rwanda, visitors are urged to familiarize themselves with that country’s genocide; In Germany, Adolph Hitler statues are outlawed, yet the American South is littered with the iconography of the confederacy. America, time and again, turns it gaze away from the strategic genocide inflicted upon the Indigenous people of this country which, I believe, paved the way everything after leading up to where we are at this very moment.
This piece was completed in 2017 after coming back from my first residency on the Navajo Nation where I lived and worked in a traditional Navajo hogan for a month at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado AZ. Elements of the past: the zeppelin in the top right corner; the couple sitting beneath the wagon wheel, in reflection of their lives; and elements of the present: nuclear cooling towers, the GOOD LUCK image is taken from a wool rug woven by Melissa Cody, an incredible contemporary artist and 4th generation Navajo weaver who deftly balances tradition and contemporary expression.
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