– Kelly Church –
Kelly Church: Crane-Couple / Acryl on canvas, 50×70 cm, 2000
The Creation of the Anishnabe People
Kelly Church refers to the legend wealth of her Anishnabe ancestors in her painting. Apparently she had “lived” with their legends since her earliest childhood: Her father, Bill Church, is storyteller, simultaneously historian. He lives in Michigan as well, like Kelly Church (see “Art Touches Art – 3”) – – – Kelly Church had sent me quite a number of DVDs meanwhile some time ago. One can experience her father Bill Church on one of those DVDs live as he talks to children like also to adults by telling the legend of the Anishnabe ancestors in a richly manner of gestures; and by his dedicated lecture he gets them (the legends) on the life. – – – And Kelly Church had the chance during all her childhood and youth to let the inner pictures of her ancestors get alive in her self – like also the pictures put in words of the legends. With her painting she makes the picture worlds of the Anishnabe legends visible on the canvas…
I can in the picture on hand “Crane-Couple” recognize the statement of the crane – legend of the creation of the Anishnabe people. Therefore I refer to this legend at my interpretation of the picture.
The picture “Crane-Couple” was painted with acrylic colors on canvas and has the size 50 cm x 70 cm. The painted scene happens in front of this red background. This red supporting the information of the picture even transports both the presence and the powerful one of the statement with this color! Altogether seven parallel to each other colored ribbons are on the upper side of the picture which go from the left side of the picture to the right one. We see these ribbons of above to down in the colors “blue, black” – „blue, yellow, blue“ – „black, blue“. With my structuring notation I have already indicated that I recognize a statement in the above order: The outer ribbons (each above and down) are blue + black and black + blue – i. e., that the color order has got mirrored. Between this a breadth bar is there composed of blue-yellow-blue.
“Blue-yellow-blue” – in front of these color bars (lying in the middle of all ribbons) are standing four blue geometric things which show a hole in their center so that one can see the yellow ribbon which “files past” in behind. Exactly in this place, the hole, there are two red arrows in each of the four blue things. Those two arrows in each blue thing are standing contrarily to each other. It seems that they are strengths which want to close the gap. Apparently there is another strength which wants to maintain this gap. – – – The two ribbons going below symbolize the water and the earth for me, while their “reflection” on the upper picture edge shows the darkness and the sky. The middle color bars are bearing in themselves the light, connected above with the „heaven“, below with the air and the water which climbs in the heights of the sky by its permanent “metamorphose” – the change of its states of aggregation.
It is said in the Legend of the Cranes that one spring on the earth, the “eastern part of the United States”*, two cranes were flying around and “were chasing each other”* in a playful way – in friendship. “They can see Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and see all of this”*. Suddenly they hear a “sound”* and “they become curious”*. They follow the sound and discover a small hole between two clouds through which they fly in their curiosity. They had arrived just when they recognize that they are there in the kingdom of the Great Manitou! In view of the presence of the Great Manitou**, “they were actually petrified”* in fear”*: The Great Manitou tells them that he plans “to create some humans”*. The two cranes shall “make a search for the perfect place where humans to be”* on earth. To this they still get the note “everything is perfect and all made down there”*. The Great Manitou wants to know whether they would do that for him. „Oh sure, we’ll do anything, we’ll do absolutely do anything!“*, is their answer. “So they do, they go flying out through the hole in the ground”* towards the earth.
Their flight leads them “toward the east coast and the oceans and then they move inland and they hear this great roar and that great roar is around where (the today so called) Niagara Falls used to be.”* The cranes do consider this lovely place as suitable for the people, because “people here will always have something to look at”*. Joyfully they fly back and announce: “We found the perfect place for people to be!”* The Great Manitou answers: “Are you sure? Are you absolutely positive?”* Doubts befitted the cranes now and the Great Manitou admitted them the time to decide for continuing their search.
“They fly out through the hole in the sky again“* (the second time) “this time, they make a right turn as they fly and they fly at the savannah, go farther out, pass Lake Superior and see this area with – it looks like peppers – down there”*. Getting closer “they see all the great crowds of buffalo between Dakotas and going south into Nebraska”*. When moving “a little inland in between the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin…they see that’s…’the Wag-tail Deer’”*. The cranes think that this could be the favorite dish of the people.
Once again, the cranes got doubts after having presented their suggestion to the Great Manitou. And they fly through the hole in the sky back to the earth a third time, “and they go north. It’s a foggy day. They can hear a rumbling down below…like the sound of water or something“*. Coming nearer, “they could see all these things that look like handfuls of diamonds shining back up at them; the rumbling is the falls of St. Mary’s”* (situated in the north, where Wisconsin and Michigan meet each other), “and they’re closer and closer and they can see that these were with the whitefish.”* The people would have here never to be hungry!
Now, the Great Manitou was agreeing.
They were very curious to see the people finally, although they did what had been charged to them still: Even a fourth time the two cranes were sent off and should fly again to all the regions of their search – there where humans shall live – and should let hear their crane call. “They flew all the way round and so they called the crane’s ‚Aoui, aoui, aoui‘. It’s an issue of everybody that should come in community to that region and they flew down with their gigantic wings and they really are gigantic”*.
I interrupt my short description of the ‘Legend of the Cranes’ in this place.
As the legend tells, the cranes went four times into the heavenly spheres by flying „through the hole in heaven“*; four times they flew back to earth again in order to fulfill the order of the Great Manitou. Above in the text I have described those blue geometric things (which show a hole in their middle) lying in front of the middle color bars (blue-yellow-blue), so that one can see the yellow light ribbon which ‘files past’ behind this.
In the repetition of these things done four times I see a temporal sequence: The ribbons show the quietly even flowing time. And we see four markings which attest the fact that something very special must have happened at these four times. They break normal life, the everyday, emerge and attract attention to themselves: These are events which have stuck in the collective memory. – – – Concentrating on such a ‘geometric thing’ I suddenly gain the impression as if I look into the architecture of the heaven! And it seems as if there are strengths keeping a gap open between heaven and earth. The possibility is given to us humans with that to get an idea about a ‘Kingdom of Heaven in behind’. But: A whole ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ – and so tiny? – Once again, I concentrate on the geometric things which I had called ‘Architecture of the Heaven’ and I see the dimensions moving and moving! The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is infinitely far away from us here on earth! Therefore it seems as tiny small as sun, moon and stars also seem much smaller than they are in reality to us for our eyes.
After the ‚crane call‘, Bill Church describes in the Legend of the Cranes how great such a crane actually is. Simultaneously he points at the height of his own, emphasizes the long neck and the long legs of the birds, as also “the red things around their eyes”* which look “like they’re painted”*. „Just at the very spot when this male and female crane touched the earth magically they turned into the very first ‘Anishnabe’”*.
The explanation of the meaning of this word follows: “’Anishnabe’ is an Indian word meaning the Indians, it really means ‘made from nothing’, ‘made instantly’; and instantly they became the first Anishnabe people”*.
In the picture of Kelly Church the gesticulatory movements of the crane couple are standing in a glaring contrast to the represented infinity of the time flowing on evenly…The cranes had learned to be able to gain much experience and had got new points of view by then. They learned to value landscapes correctly into regard on suitability for a living space. They also noticed that one must often make up his mind; the spirit should nevertheless remain straight for this to give up a decision again, too, if necessary. They also could solve their task first after they had understood the needs of the humans and they took these into account at their decision. And so they have got riper… Their playful surround flying to hunt each other also has got different. Kelly Church has held this moment tight at which the cranes became totally one during their flight in their movements: Their relation was supported by inwardness meanwhile! Through this their mutual flight, by its filling out the moment, developed a special magic! And then, when came the moment at which both touched the earth together, the metamorphosis happened – and they became a “human” – “Anishnabe human”.
“Made from nothing” or “made instantly”, these are wordings making us helpless, first.
Kelly Church has put ‘the gestures in her painting’ opposite to the ‘even course of everyday’. It is a “magical gesture coming from the depths of one’s own.” At this moment it is not the act of the intellect but the body “knows and works”. With the painted exact coordination of the flight movements, Kelly Church has expressed for me this magic coming out of the depth. And there is a moment at which every fiber of one crane body seems to be connected to every corresponding fiber of the other one. Their energies then have become one single one. And this is that energy by which a new being will arise – apparently from nothing – ‘within one single moment’…
The documentation of a metamorphosis!
From this moment on, the crane is the mediator to the Great Manitou for the Anishnabe people. The crane itself is also often called Manitou, even…
The strength of the energy described above (which gesticulatory often expresses itself) should also us be known today – as I think: Creativity! She is a high good which many people want to have and to use. The will, however, cannot get it at all. We can approach her by behaving intuitively and going on the search. Intuition that is a certain adjustment of our personality, which helps us to find our aims tentatively and integrally (body, heart and head). At the same time, the connection must, however, be held with ‘the gap between the worlds’. This way we will be able to enter paths which are designed only for us. So we will find ourselves and ‘our own place’. Over the time, we accumulate an inner treasure with the adjustment ‘intuition’. Arising from this, a spontaneously creative act will change us sometime. And the Anishnabe people – with the help of the cranes – have fared so in their past. Interpretation: Renate Hugel
Up to this passage, I have written down my own thoughts with my interpretation to the painting of Kelly Church – in connection with the Crane Legend told by Bill Church.
I would not like to fail in this place to report, which thoughts Bill Church has made himself to this Crane Legend – as a historian: “But one has to see for the adults that are in the room that there are some historical points in the story…When the cranes look at the east coast we’re talking about our removal from the east coast because we did not come over the land bridge (as some claim). Our beginnings of history come from the east coast. And when you see our Indian stuff and our dress you see the little Kauris which have to do with shells and are decorated on dance things that are a sign of places that we came from the east coast. Historically you can trace where the Anishnabe people came to this region. Sometime after the birth of Christ, at zero, specifically our type of people was here just about the 13or 14 hundreds at the area when we moved in. So we were moving from the east coast inland. There were other Indians already here in the Great Lake’s region. We historians break them into things like stone-age-people and then you have woodland period which are a little more organized, divisional labor live in little communities. And then you have kind of the modern era. So we’re talking about words of the modern era where the story comes from with the call of the crane. We were divided into clans and the cranes were the leaders, were the ones that made the decisions…The cranes used to tell everybody what to do. So the call of the crane ‘Aoui’, the cranes calling everybody to this region, the perfect place…When people are there and in place and this is after the world had been created perfectly and without humans it would remain perfect then at this stage the humans as like today probably would start taking a little bit too much and not paying attention to the animals”***…
1) The quotations marked with * are wordings which I have formulated as a rule literally but also analogously according to the literal talk of Bill Church on the (private) DVD.
2) The quotations marked with ** point to following: Bill Church turns to the children in the audience with his way of telling the story and has oriented his way of talking and his language after this. At the quotations one must take into account that Bill Church works for it simultaneously with facial expression, gestures and sound paintings by his voice. To make more understandable for the children the abstract concept ‘Manitou’, he uses alternately the concepts ‘God’ or ‘Creator’, as well.
Bill Church himself has explained to the adults of the audience at the beginning that he aligns his language with his young audience.
3) The text marked with *** corresponds to what Bill Church had added at the completion of his legend; he addressed the adults in the room (whom their children or grandchildren had accompanied). Bill Church had pointed out that what he still wanted to say is merely a shortened form which I have still a little bit shortened.
Remark (B): Current stand: To Kelly Church I have written under “Art Touches Art” the contributions “Art Touches Art – 3” and “Art Touches Art – 12”. Renate Hugel