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Protests and Art Exhibitions

I looked back at my column from last fall, and it was full of protests and occupations, smoke and covid. What do we have now? More of the same!

I want to first call attention to what is happening in Minnesota. The Canadian Mega Corporation Enbridge Line 3 plans to complete the route carrying Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta to Chicago through fragile native lands. Not quite as famous as the Standing Rock protest, but equally important to resist, many tribal groups and their allies called the Water Resisters have been fighting it for years in court and on the ground. This summer hundreds are being arrested and assaulted by the police in Northern Minnesota. Winona LaDuke’s riveting book To Be a Water Protector, The Rise of the Wiindigoo Slayers (Fernwood Publishing) gives us the history of resistance to Line 3 as well as Standing Rock. The Wiindigoo are the capitalist exploiters.

Winona LaDuke, To Be a Water Protector, The Rise of the Wiindigoo Slayers, Fernwood Publishing 2020. Cover.

The New York Times published an interview with her August 9, 2021, speaking about Biden’s betrayal of the tribes in not stopping it. On Democracy Now, LaDuke described how Enbridge had funded 40 local police squads to violently beat up the water protectors. The climate impact is huge: “Enbridge’s Line 3 is the equivalent of adding 50 new coal-fired power plants . . . We see our rivers are parched. But yet we see Enbridge and the DNR, Minnesota DNR, guarding hoses as they suck millions of gallons of water out of our river to put in this Canadian tar sands pipeline, in the worst disaster of a drought, you know, and these massive fires that are to the north and west of us. It’s really a devastating time for all of us as climate chaos descends upon us: “they’re crossing like 69 rivers, and 22 of them with this thing called the HDD, which is a super phallic, horrible drill system, the high direction drill—horizontal direction drill. And so, what happens is that they’re drilling like underneath the rivers, and they hit an aquifer, and they shoot out into—or they hit a seam that shoots out into the river, in some spring that they didn’t know about, and all of a sudden, you’ve got a bunch of, like, toxic bentonite, all kind of crazy stuff at the bottom of the river.”

Seattle activists and veterans are there.

Here in Seattle, I joined an urgent call by activists and kayaktivists to demand the removal of dams on the Snake River. It is essential for the survival of salmon and the orcas. There are four dams on the Snake and four on the Columbia. The eloquent speakers were from organizations like Dam Truth and Chinook Salmon Initiative as well as Environment Washington Save Our Orcas Campaign (they have an easy online link to send a message to our senators). Today (August 16) in The Seattle Times Lynda Mapes wrote about the starvation of the oldest male member of the southern resident orcas.

Now on to two important art exhibitions.

The Wing Luke Museum is featuring Gerard Tsutakawa, son of George Tsutakawa. The show demonstrates how their careers interlocked. Gerard worked on his father’s sculptures, reviewing engineering drawings, assembling and installing his fountains. He still maintains many of them. The exhibition consists mainly of maquettes. It also provides a tour of the public art: we got to six of them nearby, there are fourteen on the tour.

Maquettes by Gerard Tsutakawa, installation at the Wing Luke Museum. Foreground left to right Maru, Urban Peace Circle, Dragon. Background Sensei, Sea Wave, Untitled.

George Tsutakawa’s inspiration was rooted in his education in both Japanese and US schools. The obi (rock piles with ritual significance) and the pagoda form the structure of many of the sculpture. The maquettes of Gerard’s own work in the exhibition suggest his own creative directions and his major contribution to our public art environment. Particularly notable are his Urban Peace Circle in Martin Luther King Park and his gateway at Kabota Gardens.

Another exhibition not to miss is Fulgencio Lazo’s Estrellas del Norte al Sur (Stars from North to South), at ArtXchange gallery (until September 25). A Oaxacan artist with deep roots in Seattle, Fulgencio focuses here on immigration, especially that of children, with titles like “La Sombra de los Niños [Shadow of Children],” “Los Mil Caminantes [One Thousand Travelers]” and “Música de Papalotes [The Music of Kites].” We feel both the deep sorrow and pain of these children, as well as the artist’s hopes for their survival in the lush palette of blues, purples and pinks and the intricate compositions. (Look for my longer review in Art Access).

~Susan Platt, PhD


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