Tom Farris Artist Statement
"I am the child of American Indian art collectors and I have spent my entire life immersed in it. However, growing up, I hated it. As a rebellious twelve year old being dragged to yet ANOTHER art gallery on our family vacations, Indian art was the last thing that had my interest. I grew up idolizing comic book artists, hip hop artists and pop culture.
In time I learned to appreciate my culture and realized that with the right medium, my culture could be just as interesting and engaging. Thus began my art career, utilizing pop culture iconography to tell Native stories; using the familiar to teach the foreign.
My work starts with a concept, that little Indian culture wolf I’m dressing up in pop culture sheep’s clothing, that reels in the audience and surreptitiously deposits a nugget of truth. I find the best way to make the sometimes uncomfortable messages I’m attempting to convey palatable is with a candy coating of humor. I have found that because my work is funny, people want to engage with it and often come away with the intended message."
Christopher Olszewski Artist Statement
"I am a Board Certified, Low-Budget Mystic-aka-Self Appointed Mixed Race Messiah aka The Godson of Dr. Funkenstein, traveling through North America in my 1998 Cadillac DeVille. The vehicle is my avatar and exemplifies the spirit of the American Rustbelt and has a direct connection with my father and grandfather. Cadillac is a romantic symbol of American luxury, style and elegance, and the DeVille is one the last remaining vehicles assembled in Detroit (the Motor City), Michigan.
The Mobile Spiritual Renewal Center is self-contained project carried inside the vehicle. The project acts as a soft monument or a mobile message board to connect with the local populations I will encounter throughout my journey. In recent collaborative projects, I have constructed a Caution Tape Medicine Wheel around the DeVille where people can write messages on strips of colorful fabric. After a few hours, the “Caution Tape” is covered with favorable messages and the Medicine Wheel transforms from a relatively negative message (“caution”) to a positive bulletin board. When the journey is complete, the vinyl car cover(s) and caution tape will serve as the foundation for my visual exploration and used in professional gallery/museum exhibitions.
I encourage each individual with whom I come into contact to decorate, contemplate, make marks, draw, write and/or simply spend time with the project. At the beginning of the trek, the project is a blank canvas, and each mark, sticker, dent and repair serves as a testament to the rich cultural dialog of the journey. This project is the convergence of years of dedicated research into multicultural identity and the positioning of Native American artists in a contemporary context. It is also a means of transitioning my theories about cultural identity into a tangible body of work.
As a displaced Northerner living in the American South, I am finding connections to my Northern, post-industrial roots and the fragments that have led to the demise of the once-great modern industrial city of Detroit. This project is the fifth installment in my on-going investigation into cultural identity and the ever-changing contemporary landscape.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Special thanks to the Thomas Allen Davis Charitable Fund, Anthony Bagnoli for rebuilding the 4.6 liter Northstar and Gerald Olszewski for financial assistance."