tahquitz - Lewis deSoto

tahquitz - Lewis deSoto

tahquitz - Lewis deSoto

  • No tags were found...

You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles

YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.

For the Tahquitz installation at theCulver Center of the Arts, deSotosuspended a boulder inside the galleryrepresenting Tahquitz’s home in the SanJacinto Mountains. The exhibition wasco-curated by Tyler Stallings, artisticdirector for Culver Center of the Arts anddirector of the Sweeney Art Gallery, andJonathan Green, ARTSblock executivedirector, University of CaliforniaRiverside, 2012.Photo courtesy of Lewis deSotoSMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION 25

The mountain range where Tahquitzlives includes Tahquitz Peak, a sacredplace that is now a popularhiking and rock-climbing locale.It is also called Lily Rock, namedafter the daughter of one of the foundingtownspeople of Riverside. The name change,remarks deSoto, shows that “the landscapehas become estranged from itself.” Few localnon-Native residents know the meaningof the original name, or the disquieting butfascinating stories connected to it.The artist’s most recent work, an installationat the Culver Center of the Arts at theUniversity of California, Riverside, revivedthe earlier memory of the being Tahquitzand his landscape. The Cahuilla have fearsomestories about the rapacious behavior ofTahquitz, who kidnaps people and eats theirsouls, trapping them in his mountain home.His appetite is insatiable and uncontrollable.This behavior represents desires thatgo untamed, possibly a metaphor for today’sworld of overconsumption and greed. DeSotosays, “everything has power; electrical power orspiritual power are a form of aiva’a.” All beingsand objects need to be respected and acknowledgedfor their power and place in the universe.The site-specific installation and collaborativework, Lewis deSoto and Erin Neff:Tahquitz, at the Culver Center, reveals the disconnectionbetween the land and its stories.The artwork took shape once he visited thechallenging exhibition space with its 40-footatrium, double columns and expansive skylight.Like his other works, deSoto used lightand sound technology along with his objects.Like the stories of Tahquitz, the installationat the Culver Center was dramatic,dominated by a large boulder suspendedfrom the ceiling. As viewers walk under thismassive rock, that appears almost to floatoverhead, a woman’s voice is heard singingthe story of Tahquitz in Cahuilla in awestern operatic style. Looking up in thegallery, a transparent topographic map ofthe San Jacinto Mountains from the 1880sfills the entire skylight, giving the viewer asomewhat disorienting feeling of lookingdown on the landscape from the sky. Againstone wall, a Cahuilla basket image is projected,its spiral design slowly rotating clockwise.In between the boulder and the basket, anEdison phonograph rests on a table – similarCONTINUED ESMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION 27

Lewis deSotoPhotoS courtesy of Lewis deSotoFor the Tahualtapa installation, deSoto created acontemporary image of the hill with an aura showing itsoriginal height before the effects of mineral mining. Healso placed concrete slabs in the installation representingcement ingredients extracted from Tahualtapa.Collection of the Seattle Art Museum.30 AMERICAN INDIAN fall 2012The first room was bare except for awooden table against a wall. Illuminated bya solitary spotlight, a map of the Cahuillahomeland rested on the table. As the lightbrightened, a transcription of the Tahquitzstory appeared behind the map. Viewersentered another world in the second space.Bathed in blue light, two large chunks of icesat on a long galvanized steel table. As theymelted, the ice water dripped into ceramicvessels below the table. On opposite walls,monitors looped videos of the San Jacintomountain range, one video in real time andthe other in a time-lapse from dawn to dusk.Breaking the eerie sound of water dripping,Siva’s voice emerged, telling the Tahquitzstory in Cahuilla. Six speakers were mountedthroughout the room, allowing his voice tomove about and surround the viewer.Through these two installations, deSotobrilliantly demonstrates that Tahquitz is notjust the name of a mountain peak but connectsthe place to its original namesake. Revealingthe Native relationship to land, deSotorecovers stories that are just as relevant today.As early as the 1980s, deSotolooked at another southernCalifornia site with his TahualtapaProject, an installation at theModerna Museet in Stockholm,Sweden. Tahualtapa, or “Hill of the Ravens” inCahuilla, is a mountain located in the San BernardinoValley. When the Spanish arrived inCalifornia, they called it Cerrito Solo or “LittleLonely Hill.” In the 1850s, American settlersextracted lime and marble from Tahualtapaand named it Marble Mountain. In 1891, theCalifornia Portland Cement Company usedthe mountain to mine limestone and cementrock. Currently, it is known as Mount Sloverafter Isaac Slover, a fur trader who died froma bear attack. The cement company still operatesand extracts raw materials from themountain. Before being significantly quarried,Tahualtapa was the tallest peak in the valley.For the Tahualtapa exhibit, deSoto includedphotographs, maps and objects like blocksof marble and bags of cement in the space. Inthe center of the room he placed a model ofthe mountain surrounded by powdered cement– a stark interpretation about the presentfunction of the mountain.Through looking at one location over time,deSoto uncovered its changing history. As heexplains, “the names illustrate how cosmologysignified what the earth was used for and howit is regarded by different peoples.” Existing asa nesting place for ravens, Tahualtapa becamea commodity to be conquered and consumed.Settlers renamed it for their purposes, and itno longer resembles itself.Whether talking about Tahquitz or Tahualtapa,deSoto exposes buried cosmologies in thelandscape. The Cahuilla have ancient storiesabout the southern California region, lost underthe modern names. His art awakens viewersto look differently at the world. Familiar placesin the landscape carry power. The land is ametaphor for what we value and dishonor. XMore information about deSoto and his artwork can be foundat LewisdeSoto.net.Anya Montiel (Tohono O’odham/Mexican), a frequentcontributor to American Indian, is a doctoral student atYale University.

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!