The wheat pasting project started in June 2009. One of my first pastings was of code talkers at the old Red Lake Trading Post (which incidentally was used in the 1991 adaptation of a Tony Hillerman novel "The Dark Wind." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Wind).
Looking back at that pasting, it's refreshing to see the bits of color and shapes I added to the background. Bahe, the first code talker in the photo, is leaning backwards and the piece is small for this wall. At this point in the project I was still pasting at night so no one knew who was responsible for the work.
Shortly after getting it up, I was talking with a patient from Red Lake. She was an middle-aged Navajo woman. I asked whether she'd noticed the art work of the code talkers. She acknowledged she had and said she didn't like it. She also mentioned that the piece had caused controversy at the Red Lake Chapter Meeting as people there were confused by the piece. If it were meant as a tribute, why didn't the person putting it up have wordage saying "this is a tribute to code talkers," they wondered. Such is the life of a street artist in a community with no tradition for street art. It seemed from talking with the patient that the community was split over the mysterious appearance of the art.
tribute to code talkers outside tuba city
Yesterday, I returned to Red Lake Trading Post to speak with the owner about putting a large piece on the side of his building. I met with him in his office which is also a vaulted safe with a heavy, thick steel door in the back of the store. He sat at his desk counting money wearing mirrored shades as I walked in. I passed a full lenght mirror in route to his office where I quickly confirmed I looked as shitty as I felt fighting a cold. (My hair was uncombed, shirt tail out, bags under my eyes.) We exchanged a brief handshake and I introduced myself as Dr. Thomas from the clinic to which he responded "...that's unusual. I've never seen you over there but then again, I don't get sick much." I presented my proposal and showed him a photo of the image I'd like to paste. He listened attentively and asked whether I was the one who pasted the code talkers to the old post office. I conceded it was me. He said he'd think about my proposal. We didn't talk about the community's mixed response to the first pasting.
As I got up to leave I asked him his name. "Lorenzo Fowler," he said. I asked in he knows a woman named Brenda Fowler, a co-worker of mine. He answered that she's his sister. I laughed and said I take care of both his parents. The mood shifted. He took off his shades and for the next 20 minutes we talked about people in his family that I know. As I rose to leave a second time he said he had no problem with my proposal and that he didn't care what others in the community might say.
Boom, there it is. I'm just waiting for the weather to ripen a bit more. As a friend observed, it's because of my stature in the community and the trust that people have in me that Lorenzo consented to the proposal. With that comes responsibility.