This year, I plan to have a very good start on the Native American Massacre site project. This project is yet to be titled. I'll call it NAMS for now.
It seems that I'm constantly pulled into other projects and things that distract me. Teaching is a big one. As much as I love teaching, I'm going to have to figure out a better way to have more time, and I think that translates to less teaching. There are plenty of people teaching nowadays, it wouldn't be a big deal if I cut back. Of course, I would have to make some changes, but I'm ready for that.
In the next several weeks, I will be traveling to a couple of different massacre sites. I have a feeling that I'll be making more than one trip to some of these locations. Which translates to a very long time to make this project a reality. And I'm very much okay with that.
In fact, part of my desire to do this project is to get away from the ridiculous "photography" pace I've kept for the past several years. I'm tired. And a little bit burned out.
As many times as I've tried to slow down and cut back, there's been more opportunities that are presented. However, now, I'm learning how to say, "No, thank you" as it relates to photography and art. My boundaries are being redefined so I can do the things I need to do.
While I've been very fortunate in my career, taking opportunities for opportunities sake doesn't really satisfy me. As an artist, I'm supposed to be thinking, reading, writing, researching and making photographs. That's the opportunity I want to pursue.
For the past year, I've been doing a lot of research on the NAMS project. I'm not over thinking it, but I am trying to position myself to make several inquiries not only about these events in history, but about art in general as well as aesthetics. It will speak to a lot of my concerns, questions, and attitude about art in general, too.
Recently, I discovered a treasure trove of information here in Colorado about obscure massacre sites and places where treaties were signed (and later broken). These sites, and the information they include, are almost like 19th century urban legends. The writing tells of fantastic events about Native Americans, men, women, and children being slaughtered, raped, burned alive, skinned alive, and enslaved.
One entry that I read has rented space in my head. I can't get it out of my mind. It happened at at the Sand Creek Massacre site here in Colorado. It talks about the slaughter of native men, women and children by the U.S. military. As the natives were trying to run away, there was a little boy, about three years-old, naked running and crying toward the others. He couldn't keep up. One soldier pulls up his rifle and fires. He misses the little boy. Another soldier says, "Here, I'll get that little sonofabitch." He pulls his rifle up and fires. The little boy stumbles and falls dead into the sand. I cried when I read that.
Even that brief description doesn't come close to the things I've read about these events. I've visited a couple of these sites, without cameras, just to be there and to feel the land. One of them, just outside of Denver, is one of the most beautiful places I've seen here. To think about the horror, pain and suffering that took place there is almost like being back in Europe standing the gas chambers or looking at a blood ditch.
I'm reminded of Sally Mann's "Southern Landscapes" and "Battlefields". It's beautiful work, very haunting. The connection to the land is crucial. She imbued the work with that. You can feel how the land remembers. Those horrible events scarred the land.
My work will seem much more documentary in style, but will not be a documentary project. I don't even really believe those exist. This is about my relationship to my mother's heritage, to the land, and to genocide. It's a personal, very subjective look at my own thoughts and feelings regarding this terrible piece of American history.