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Water Protectors at Standing Rock: December 4, 2016 36" X 72" ©2017 Oil on Canvas
In 2016, a massive protest and gathering of Native American tribes and supporters occurred near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in order to bring attention to and protect the water source of the Lakota Sioux Tribe from having a potentially dangerous and polluting oil pipeline installed under Lake Oahe. A makeshift camp, Oceti Sakowin, sprang up on BLM land, housing this gathering. On December 4, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers attached an injunction preventing the pipeline from being built under Lake Oahe. Indigenous peoples, U.S. Armed Forces veterans and supporters from all walks of life then celebrated, joyously holding hands, completely encircling Camp Oceti Sakowin.
I became aware of and interested in this protest movement as I watched the unfolding story on the news and from reports from my pastor, Reverend Patty Willis, who had personally visited Oceti Sakowin camp twice. The story captured my imagination and I felt strongly that I wanted to express the sacred nature of how the Native peoples view their environment and how groups came together to fend off evil. I determined to compose a painting that would, in effect, combine views of sky, earth (the camp) and water as one living entity and surround it with joyously celebrating humans as occurred on December 4, 2016. I used photos from my pastor, who was there on that date, and other references of landscape elements to set an image that would have the reflective quality of water and ice so that the clouds could be reflected and there would be no literal borders between the natural elements. Then I placed the celebrating people (taken from photos by Reverend Willis) into the scene, encircling the ramshackle camp without regard to literal perspective.