I stopped at Black Mesa Junction this morning to get gas while in route to a day long meeting in Kayenta. I was shocked to discover that the collaboration I did with the Shonto school students a week ago Tuesday was totally down. Totally fucking down. There was no trace of it ever having been there. (That's the good news, I guess. Wheat paste art can be washed off without a hint of its existence. But I'm hardly celebrating that.) I had to smile when I recognized the dog who'd eaten the wheat paste from the bucket and off the wall who holds his head slightly crooked with a permanent smile on his face.
It happened once before at Black Mesa that a piece I put up there was partially removed. When that happened I spent the day thinking it'd been vandalized. Later I learned from Nick, the store manager, that snow melting from the roof damaged the piece.
I spent the day in Kayenta at a work related meeting bummed that one of the few big walls where I live is no longer available for street art. I stopped by the store once again in route home to see if I could talk with Nick. He'd expressed support of the public art project and was confused as to why the work was buffed. Yeah, it was a raw, unfocused piece on the front of the store, but why didn't he call to let me know the piece was being removed like he did when he had a concern about the last big piece I'd put up there. Nick wasn't there but another manager (John, who also happens to be a patient of mine), was. He said that youth from the community had written graffiti on the lower hanging pieces the Shonto students put up. Some pieces had been ripped from the local dogs eating the wheat paste off the wall. Rez dogs and wheat paste. Not a good combination. The store owner didn't like the pieces on the front wall of the store or the condition they were in and said that everything had to be taken down. Bummer. However, John said that the walls I used previously were still available to me.
In truth, that was all I wanted to hear. I'd spent the day wondering whether my image of a dog wearing a large protective collar parachuting back to the rez was considered offensive to the community. In fact, I was sure that was what led to the buff. As an outsider to this culture, I'm still trying to walk the fine line between presenting imagery that the culture considers offensive and foreign versus culturally sensitive creative expression.
So hmmm, let me get this straight. It wasn't about the dog parachuting back to the rez, eh? Cool. I love the story of Roscoe the rez dog returning to earth nostalgic for home. I like that image and want to use it again. In fact, I will!
More to come.