Monday, March 16, 2015

The Sculpture of Jason Quigno Has Become A Powerful Presence in West Michigan @PureMichigan

Why am I obsessed with sculpture? For example, visiting campus of Central Michigan University, I had to photograph a sculpture by a Native American, Jason Quigno, who works in Grand Rapids, represented by Linda LaFontseeGallery. He's a member of the Chippewa Tribe that stayed on its lands in the Saginaw Valley, if I have my facts straight. The Chippewas of the Shiawassee River Valley upstream faired less well in the treaties, and there's an awful story how the Whigs in the 1840s rounded up the final encampment of Native Americans north of the city of Owosso. Any landowner in the Shiawassee River Valley has to feel guilt when that story is repeated, and it should be repeated. 

His sculpture's position near the administration building on Franklin Street, Warriner Hall, and the Park Library has symbolism for more than myself. After all, Central Michigan retained the right to call itself the Chippewas, Fighting Chips for short. The tribe seems to abide the college and its fairly noble progress, and the sculpture expresses all these ideas and more. 

The river that flows by the campus carries the Chippewa name because that river carried Chippewa canoes to the great confluences of rivers that still is called the Saginaw. Okay, it looks as if the Tittabawassee River absorbs the Chippewa before the Saginaw absorbs the Tittabawasssee. But that's how Chippewas took their canoes down to the Saginaw Bay for food and trade. In short Chippewas hunted, food gathered and lived all over the campus commons. And, if you know the law, it's the Chippewas that still have an inextinguishable claim to the lands upon which the sculpture's brave woman eyes survey. The treaties brokered by Lewis Cass and Henry Longfellow could finally be shown to be unconscionable at minimum.

And then there's the emotional impact of the sculpture. I haven't met Jason Quigno, and yet we have corresponded. I visit downtown Holland and see a similar woman sculpted in soapstone. I drop by the casino to the west of Mt Pleasant and see his work, displayed in position of honor at Soaring Eagle Casino. I visit the museum at the University of Michigan, enjoying a Native American art show curated by a daughter of shopping mall billionaire, Art Taubman. Who has a sculpture among the exhibition artifacts? Jason Quigno. And I was happy to see his work.

Will Juntunen

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