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Artist Gerald Clarke

geral clarke desert x

Teaching us about the Cahuilla Indians

Gerald Clarke is an artist, university professor, cowboy and Cahuilla tribal leader. He is known for deriving inspiration from his heritage and expressing traditional ideas in contemporary forms — mixed-media sculptures, paintings, works on paper, videos, performances and installations — that are at once poetic and politically urgent. Clarke’s artistic output resonates with histories of assemblage, pop, and conceptual art produced by both Native and non-Native artists.

Continuum Basket: Pivat

In this work Clarke arranged crushed aluminum beer and soda cans in traditional motifs inspired by two historic Cahuilla baskets held in the Palm Springs Art Museum’s permanent collection. Clarke honors the legacy and process of Cahuilla basket makers who gather materials from the environment, but injects a contemporary approach by utilizing man-made cans that litter the same lands today.

george clarke continuum basket
1,840 Crushed Aluminum Beer and Soda Cans 96″x 96″x 14″

Immersion

One of his most notable recent works is the art installation called Immersion as part of Desert X 2023. The goal of Immersion is to create a space for contemplation and reflection on the rich history and traditions of the Cahuilla people, as well as to highlight their ongoing presence and contributions to the region. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving and celebrating indigenous cultures in our society.

gerald clarke immersion desert x

Immersion is an interactive sculpture piece that combines the Cahuilla basketry tradition with the American board game franchise. It is an approximately 100-foot sized basket piece made out of plywood and straw waddles that lays flat against the desert landscape.

Recordings

The basket includes four pathways to the center that are meant to be walked on, each entitled after the four cardinal directions sacred to Cahuilla people. The center  of the basket includes four recordings to listen to and reflect on. Note: These recordings are on Soundcloud and you may be served an ad before the recording.

Alvino – The telling of the Cahuilla Creation story told entirely in the traditional Cahuilla language with no English translation.

Annie – Recording with Annie, Cahuilla Indian tribal elder, sharing some of her stories and the hardships of the tribe.

Bird Dance – One of their important dances is the bird dance, which represents the flight of birds and their connection to the spirit world. Cahuilla bird dance songs are typically accompanied by rhythmic drumming and singing, and feature lively movements that imitate the flapping and soaring of birds. The lyrics of the songs often relate to the natural world and the power of nature. Some examples of Cahuilla bird dance songs include “Kamalak,” “Kukun,” and “Kwok l’uwish.” These songs are still performed today as part of the Cahuilla’s cultural heritage, and are a testament to the enduring legacy of this Native American tribe.

Creation – Telling of the Cahuilla Creation story in English.

Game

As an educator, Clarke understands the role that games can play in leading people to obtaining knowledge that they might have been hesitant to seek on their own. He has created a deck of cards, each with four questions and answers. Each question related to Indigenous people, Native history, and Cahuilla Culture. Question topics range from Indigenous Chamorro history to the meaning of the word “Cahuilla.”  Test your knowledge.

Immersion Game

immersion game gerlald clarke

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