"Enduring Tradition"

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Gerald Clarke Jr.
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I created Enduring Tradition as a work that connects the modern desert community with its’ indigenous past.  My goal was the creation of a sculpture representing the local Cahuilla people and their long history of basket making.  As a Cahuilla Tribal Member and a member of a basket making family, I have first hand knowledge of their beauty, utility and symbolic importance to the Cahuilla people. 

              We have always been here.

The coiled part of the sculpture is constructed of ABS plastic pipe and fiberglass. It is brightly colored to take full advantage of the natural desert sun and the provided nighttime lighting.  The geometric design featured on both sides of the work is constructed of steel and finished with a  specialty powder coat.  The centerpiece is painted in a complementary color to the basket and serves as the focal point of the work.   

... a work that connects the modern desert community with its’ indigenous past.

Since the work was to be seen from either side, I chose the form of the basket is as a flat tray.  The center “turquoise” form is representative of water and/or air.  The zigzag patterns of the black geometric decorations on both sides were inspired by a traditional “deer toe” design.  

Inspiration or Appropriation?

I make a point to express “inspired by” because I am careful not to simply copy traditional works out of respect for their history.  I explore traditional artworks of my people and use them to inspire me to make contemporary expressions about the world today.  Most importantly, I wanted to remind the viewer that this is an ancient land that included an ancient culture that still exists today- the Cahuilla people.

"I am careful not to simply copy traditional works out of respect for their history." 

Construction

As you can see from the above perliminary sketch, while the concept remained unchanged the form did evolve and some material changes occurred to facilitate creation of the work. The steel base was expanded vertically to add some height to the work and I increased the distance between the sculpture and base.

Other Considerations

In addition to aesthetic considerations, I needed to address safety and security of the work. As a public artwork, I needed to ensure that the work was safe and securely fassened to the concrete base. An inner system of pins secured the sculpture to the base and specialty hardware was used to apply the 'zig-zags" to the sculpture body.

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