October 18, 2008

Art for the Sky

‘Sky canoe’:  new perspective on the Penobscot RiverAt the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, people gathered themselves into the shape of a grizzly bear to honor the sacredness of their land and send a message to the government to protect it.

At the Jicarilla Apache Tribal Schools in New Mexico, students portrayed individual beads in a traditional morning star design.

At the Honu o ka Lani Charter School in Hawaii, they formed the image of an endangered sea turtle and celebrated afterwards during the blessing of a downpour.

And on Oct. 6 at the Indian Island Elementary School, more than 150 students, teachers and community members in blue T-shirts and jeans teamed up to represent the shifting colors of the Penobscot River beneath a gigantic 104-foot-long image of a Penobscot paddler in a traditional birch bark canoe.
What it is, exactly:Dancer is the founder of Art for the Sky (www.artforthesky.com), a traveling art education, artist-in-residence program in which he uses the people and natural materials found in the community to create large “living paintings.” The created images are symbols of nature or items of cultural importance in the particular community. Each image is massive and can only be viewed from the sky; and because they are temporary installations, he memorializes each project in photographs and videos that can be viewed in the “sky gallery” on his Web site.

“I do lots of projects on different Indian reservations–this is the ninth or 10th one–so it always comes down to an animal or symbol of something that’s especially important to that tribe; and the birch bark canoe is very symbolic of the Penobscot people. They invented the canoe. So, doing a traditional birch bark canoe made a lot of sense. The school wasn’t big enough to make the whole canoe out of people, so the people became the water.”
Below:  "Daniel Dancer, a conceptual artist, author and educator, involved more than 150 Indian Island Elementary School students and teachers who became 'human drops of paint' representing the Penobscot River in an installation piece called 'Sky Canoe' that depicted a Penobscot paddler in a birch bark canoe."

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