Artist Statement

I have been thinking about the dreamcatcher lately. Traditionally made from a willow hoop with sinew wound round, it forms a web reaching the center hole where a feather hangs from. Dreamcatchers were originally made by the Ojibwa tribe; initially by the spider woman Asibikaashi. She watched over her people until they spread across America. It became too difficult for Asibikaashi to check on all the children so she taught the grandparents to weave dreamcatchers. Ojibwa believe that the air is full of dreams both good and bad, the good have good intentions and slip through the hole entering children’s minds, while the bad are confusing and become so in the web getting stuck until they are destroyed by the first rays of the sun.

In the 60’s during the Pan-Indian Movement the dreamcatcher was adopted as a symbol of unity; soon after it was also adopted by the new age movement, perhaps as a symbol of solidarity with Native Americans, or because it represented a spirituality, maybe just because they looked cool.

In the 21st century they became ubiquitous. A quick Amazon search renders 184,256 results for “dreamcatcher” ranging from $1-$30. The dreamcatcher no longer serves its original purpose. It has transcended objecthood and is now an icon appearing on t-shirts, binders and temporary tattoos. The mass-produced object found adorning America solely represents its origin in shape and contains none of the magick it was originally invested with. It has become an image of cultural appropriation, which I see at the core of an American longing for something to believe in. It is the shell of something meaningful with such a basic story anyone can get behind it: “it gives you good dreams.” The dreamcatcher is now a lonely vacant ghost representing almost nothing. I live in a time where culture has become devoid of a sense of something deeper and people are hunting and gathering anything they feel has meaning. Now a dreamcatcher iphone case can represent ones connection with the earth.

A dreamcatcher made by a Native American with its original intentions and meanings is a power object; one made in a Chinese factory is not. A dreamcatcher I make from a plastic chicken shaped frame from a thriftshop may be a bridge between these disparate concepts. Part power object part consumer trash, it speaks to these two worlds and laughs. In this type of environment, where nothing is sacred, everything is fair game: crystals, witchcraft, Ouija, wizard staffs. New systems of meaning manufactured from the past, the detritus of the present. It is the artist’s job to create meaning from what surrounds them and make it relevant to their time. The artist can act like a shaman creating and interrupting the signs and symbols of their world. I both agree with this idea and mock it. In my work Afghan blankets are vortexes, Frank Zappa is a witch doctor and wizards crash your coke party. The work functions as DIY spirituality. As culture devours meaning someone has to reinvent it.