I created a panel in an intriguing collaborative art project called “Zip Us Up!“. This is a project conceived & coordinated by David Bloom of Birmingham, MI as a way to bring artists and community together after the isolation of the pandemic. He put out a national call that ultimately enlisted 40 artists. Each artist created a canvas that attached to the others using zippers, coordinating on colors, shapes, or themes on the neighboring edges. This series of canvases zipped together to form one continuous artwork on display around the upper perimeter of the Baldwin Public Library in Michigan from Oct. 2021 to May 2022.
Why “Three Fires”?
While learning more about the history of the area, I came across stories of the Native American tribes living there and was particularly struck by the Three Fires Council. The “three fires” refer to three tribes. The Ojibwe are the eldest tribe, and as such, the “keepers of the faith”. The Odawa facilitated much of the communication between groups and are the “keepers of the trade”. The Bodéwadmi [Potawatomi] were the last to form (or “build their own fire” in community), so they are the “keepers of the fire”.
This council formed over a millennium ago. That’s not a typo: they are estimated to have formed in the 9th century CE. The council lasted for nearly a thousand years up until these lands were colonized.
You can read more about them here:
My painting represents the roles each of the tribes held in the council:
- The Ojibwe gathered supplies such as food and furs, represented here with the plants and leather skin.
- The Odawa traveled and traded supplies, represented here with woven and bark baskets.
- The Bodéwadmi [Potawatomi] brought the community together, represented here with the kindling and fire.
I painted their story with a blending of two visual languages: the look of stained glass used for storytelling through windows, and colors and textures that reference the way the people of the land captured their stories on midewiigwaas (“medicine birch”) bark scrolls.
“Three Fires” is on display at the Birmingham Library in a continuous mural alongside neighboring canvases by artists Daniel Cascardo and Niki Sands. I enjoyed meeting the contributing artists for this effort, and am honored to have had the opportunity to share my art with the community.