WOMAN RISING UP
A few comments about the new work from the artist, Stewart Steinhauer, tentatively titled Woman Rising Up:
“First of all, and perhaps most important, the new four piece assembly, of which three were installed on August 21, 2017, is driven by creative inspiration arising out of the on-going collaborative work between Sandy Kunze and me. The fourth piece, tentatively scheduled for installation in early October, will complete the assembly, and set in motion the telling of a story.
A second strong influence behind the creation of this, as yet un-named story-telling assembly, is the current planning work that occupies much of my creative dreamtime as I slowly move towards an understanding of the pre-colonial matri-focal social form enjoyed by many Indigenous Peoples here on Turtle Island. This social form was unfortunately destroyed as a practical day to day living entity during Canada’s period of active cultural genocide, but remains alive as an element stored in the library of living memory, the library of record employed by all oral tradition societies. The swirling of the matri-focal social form in my dreamtime, energized by the collaborative activity between me and Sandy Kunze, has produced a localized early version of my vision of a matri-focal future.
In my vision, the Wolf Grandmother, the Full Moon Grandmother, the Rock Grandmother, and the Bear Grandmother are all gathered around a human female form. We see her in several, not necessarily linear in-time stages of life, but possibly slipping back and forth, from stage to stage, in reaction to other outside forces.
The Ktunaxa Peoples’ Spirit of the Mountain Grizzly will represent the Bear Grandmother, and a substantial Creston Valley glaciated granite boulder will represent the Rock Grandmother.
The two will be placed so that the Spirit of the Mountain Grizzly, standing on top of the glaciated boulder, Rock Grandmother, is facing Woman Rising Up, symbolically pouring energy into the human female, bonding her with the earth. We see Woman Rising Up going through the experience of becoming transformed by the effect of exposure to the Spirit of the Bear Grandmother, while in the background, the Rock Grandmother, the Full Moon Grandmother and the Wolf Grandmother observe, beaming their loving support towards the human female.
Full Moon Grandmother
The Full Moon Grandmother has thirteen full moon circles on her back representing the thirteen full moon names in the Cree lunar calendar. These names describe seasonal events like the sudden loud cracking sound that poplar trees make at 40 below zero or the first frog singing in the spring, which marks the Cree New Year, or the two major water bird migrations, spring and fall. About sixty percent of all years have twelve full moons within the earth’s full annual circle around the sun, ‘one earth’ as a year is called in Cree, while about forty percent of all years have 13 full moons.
The Full Moon Grandmother provides a visual backdrop for the Wolf Grandmother, whom we see howling as described in a second, after the great flood, Cree creation story. In that story, the Wolf, a spiritual sidekick to the legendary figure Wesakeychak, agrees to help him measure Turtle Island by wandering around, occasionally stopping to sit and howl. The Wolf Grandmother’s howling provides a measurement system, using sound, so that Wesakeychak can get a sense of how big Turtle Island is. Wesakeychak has made Turtle Island by blowing on a handful of mud brought up from the ocean floor by the humble muskrat and he has a proprietary interest in knowing the size of what he has just created. On the Wolf Grandmother’s back we see a petroglyph of Turtle Island, and
on her front we see a shadowy representation of the spiritual grandmother figure.
Modernity has introduced patriarchy into Indigenous societies, and, of course, operates on a foundation of multiple systems of oppression, of which patriarchy is one. All female humans born into modernity, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or social standing, are subject to the effects of patriarchy, both subtle and overt. In Woman Rising Up we see an everywoman character in fetal curl, attempting to protect herself from the crushing effects of patriarchy. Above the fetal curl form we see her unfolding as the Bear Grandmother’s energetic input begins to take effect. At the top of the form, and in full figure at the back, we see her stretched upwards, at maximum reach, radiating the power that the Bear Grandmother has poured into her. As she is linked to the earth she radiates energy and power back out into the universe.
I propose that, by re-engaging with the pre- colonial matri-focal social form, in a post- modern global renewal, we collectively, men and women, Indigenous and non-indigenous, followers of the many and various belief systems, including atheists, and all people who think that they may be different from one another because of skin, eye or hair colour, or because they may be rich or poor, or because they may have differing sexual orientations, or because of whatever may be imagined as an apartheid-inducing boundary, can be transcended. I believe that the key lies in our collective human relationship with our great mother, the earth.”
WOMAN RISING UP