Kwina’a Taba [Eagle Sun] (2007)

8” x 12” x 4”

Wood, acrylic paint, LEDs, custom circuitry

This image presents a silhouette of an eagle made with bare wood, rainbow paint, LEDs, and hypnotic illuminated patterns. The subject and coloring hover between kitsch and beauty. Kwina’a Taba means “Eagle Sun” in the Native American Paiute language. The series confronts the tension between the Western idealization and stereotyping of Native American cultures as being more connected to nature, and our simultaneous obsession with everything technological.

The surface is mounted floating off the wall to expose custom circuitry and wiring twisting behind. LEDs are spaced in the shape of an eagle in flight, each LED intersected by a painted ray emanating from the center. The LEDs function as a sort of cosmic clock, on a yearly cycle rather than daily. The light points blink imperceptibly faster and faster as the earth approaches the winter solstice, and then slower and slower until the summer solstice when they seem to barely move at all. Thus the clock tunes us to rhythms much slower than humans are used to perceiving.

We worship our gadgets, our touch surfaces, and our glowing screens – this piece offers that fascination to the viewer but then challenges her to stay with it long enough to transcend its spectacle. The first layer of meaning, the ironic but flashy re-presentation of Native American symbols, gives way to the second layer of meaning, a critique of that naive objectification and our hypocritical appetite for the new. Yet there is enough innocence in the piece to suggest a third layer, a meditative state in which technology and nature can peacefully co-exist.

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