Distant Thunder - 34"
34" x 21" x 17"
In the desert, as in the mountains, the weather can be violently unpredictable. Storms can explode out of a serene blue sky in a matter of moments. For this reason, native people, who spent most of their time out of doors, were acutely attuned to the warning signs. Drawing on these facts of nature, I imagined a dramatic vignette of turn-of-the-century Apache life. A young mother out gathering berries with her child has heard the drums of distant thunder. Pursued by a lashing wind and bolts of lightning, she hurries toward shelter.
As with all of my pieces, the historical details are important to me and I spend a lot of time doing research. The "burden basket" the woman carries over her shoulder is specific to Western tribes and is given to young girls at their puberty ceremonies. Her jewelry is all based on what was made and worn at the time, from the silver dollar medallion and glass trade bead necklace, to the wood amulet carved by a medicine man out of lightning-struck wood that is believed to be an entrail of the Wind God.
For me, the detail doesn’t just exist for detail's sake. It’s integrated into the sculpture in ways that subtly support the original concept. The way the woman is dressed is an example. Rather than putting her in traditional clothes, I have her wearing the kind of long and loose cotton dress Western Apache women adopted after contact with Europeans. This allows me to bring more movement to the piece, accenting the woman's flight and the swirling wind, which in turn adds drama and urgency to the action. When you look closely at the child in her arms you can see that it appears to have recognized its mother's alarm, and it too senses the danger that’s chasing them. I’ve suggested this not only by the wild-eyed expression registered on its face but also by the fact that it has imitated its mother’s decisive action, clutching its rescued doll in its hand.
In this piece, I’ve focused my interest on sculpting Native women and placing them in contexts that allow them to demonstrate strength and character. Though concern is etched in this young Apache mother's brow, she acts swiftly and competently to stay ahead of trouble. We all face moments in life when we need to act swiftly and competently. This piece celebrates all of those moments and all of the women, and the men, who’ve faced them and will continue to face them.