Road Signs by Gerald Clarke

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Gerald Clarke Jr.
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The Road Signs are a series of works I've been making since the mid-1990's as a way to illustrate the importance of indigenous languages and the history of place. As a Cahuilla artist, I feel a resposibility to my tribal community and the signs were a way for me to engage them with my art.

Let me explain

Having completed my M.F.A. degree, I began to think about bringing my work back home to the reservation. The Cahuilla Indian Reservation does not have a contemporary art center. Thus, I began to think of a way to incorporarte art into the environment without interferring with the natural bueauty of the land. I chose road signs as the format for these works because people tend to see them or not. In a funny way, road signs such as these tend to become invisible when people choose to ignore them. It's a choice.

"... road signs such as these tend to become invisible when people choose to ignore them. It's a choice."

I had no idea how these works would be received. On the rez, we don't have law enforcement so I dig holes and "planted" them along our roads. I didn't ask for permission before hand, but I planned to de-install them if there were any complaints. To my surprise, many reservation residents seemed to appreciate the work and it seemed to spark interest in the preservation of our ancient tribal language.

Latest Installments

As you can see from the above images, the newer versions of the road signs combine imagery and text. Side A features the name of our creator: MUKAT and Side B features a silouette of a Yucca plant, Panu'ul.

The newer signs are painted with an oil enamel on mild steel sheet. I use a stencil and pneumatic paint sprayer to paint the signs.

"These signs stood for about six months before they were destroyed by shotgun fire in the middle of the night."

Above are two of the initial signs I created for installation along the roads of my tribe's reservation. These sign were made of wood and featured Cahuilla text with its' English translation below. These signs stood for about six months before they were destroyed by shotgun fire in the middle of the night.

Palomar College Installation

The two signs pictured above were part of a multi-sign installation on the campus of Palomar College in San Marcos, California. Palomar's campus sits within the Payómkawichum territory and so I enlisted the assistance of a speaker of their language to create the tribally appropriate text on the signs.

The above signs were placed just outside of the Natural Sciences Building (The earth is alive.) and the college's library (I learned.).

City of Palm Springs, California Installation (Spring 2020).

I will be installing roadsigns in/around Palm Springs in 2020 as part of the Palm Springs Art Commission's Public Art Program. Here's one example of the new signs.

Cahuilla word for basket. 36" x 36".

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