Thursday, June 25, 2009

Niro's Journey

By: Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitions
Shelley Niro created this series of paintings for a film she has been working on for more than ten years, called Kissed By Lightning. The paintings detail the Journey of the Peacemaker, which is the basis of the unification of the five Nations which became the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Nations.

The story begins with Grandmother’s Dream. The Spirit (the eagle) visits the Grandmother, telling her to leave the child alone because he is going to bring peace to the Haudenosaunee People. The child and his mother are surrounded by modern-day horrors ranging from the Bosnian War to common-place pollution.

The Peacemaker and His Canoe relates the part of the story where the Peacemaker travels in a stone canoe. Scholars of the story indicate that a stone canoe could indicate that this story has been around since the ice-age. Others explain that the Peacemaker has come from a different time or even place.

Face of Peace is a composite painting showing the importance of women in the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy, who have always acknowledged them as equals.

Dark Times illustrates a period of time when disease ripped through the Haudenosaunee territory, leaving few survivors. Society as they had known it had disappeared. Social graces, manners, ceremonies were forgotten. Basic survival skills were forgotten. Grandmothers and grandfathers no longer were there to teach the young. Knowledge had vanished.

Monster Man appears in the next painting, eating a human leg. This person represents people who fear they can never change. He was a man who terrified everyone around him. He was notorious for his cannibalism. After meeting with the Peacemaker, he was able to change, and show others how they too can change.

The Peacemaker Combs Snakes From His Hair shows what one person can do for another person. By removing varmints and bugs from The Monsters hair, The Monster can now think more clearly for himself and start to live a healthy life.

Dreaming of Cornfields shows Hiawatha’s distress as he thinks of his wife and daughters who are no longer with him. In his state of mourning, he can no longer think clearly for himself. His grief keeps him paralyzed and in a catatonic state.

The Healing Of Hiawatha shows the Peacemaker’s hand on Hiawatha’s head, absolving him of grief. With the application of wampum to his forehead, the Peacemaker brings him out of a state of confusion. They begin their journey together, bringing healing to the other people who are also in the same state.

Shelley Niro’s paintings are on view in Our Stories Made Visible: Two Mohawk Women Artists. The 7th Contemporary Iroquois Art Biennial featuring Katsitsionni Fox and Shelley Niro through July 5.

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