Day/Night (1991), an installation of two double-sided panels created by Hachivi Edgar Heap of Birds, stands on either side of a sculptural bust of Chief Sealth (also known as Chief Seattle) in Seattle’s Pioneer Place Park. The porcelain enamel-on-steel panels feature quotations in both English and Lushootseed (Chief Seattle’s native language). These passages convey in a contemporary sense the sentiments of Chief Seattle’s famous speech given during the treaty negotiations of 1854, a public address that speaks to the relationship of his people to the earth. One panel reads: “Far away brothers and sisters, we still remember you” while the other one reads: “Chief Seattle, now the streets are our home.”
The artist explains that “the theme of the porcelain panels seeks to proclaim that for many transient inter-tribal native people the streets of Seattle are home…Although these tribal citizens have sought refuge in the urban centers…the far away rural tribal communities from which they originate hold each and everyone’s memory in close and high regard.”
Heap of Birds creates art that includes multi-disciplinary forms of public art, large scale drawings, acrylic paintings, prints and monumental porcelain enamel-on-steel outdoor sculptures. He teaches Native American studies and fine arts at the University of Oklahoma and has received numerous grants from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012, Heap of Birds was named a Fellow of United States Artists.
Chief Seattle’s speech in 1854:
“Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered valleys and they ever yearn in affection over the lonely-hearted living and often return to visit, guide and comfort them.
Day and night cannot dwell together. The red man has ever fled the approach of the white man, as the changing mist on the mountainside flees before the blazing sun.”
Day/Night was funded by the city of Seattle 1% for Art program and private donors.
IMAGES: Hachivi Edgar Heap of Birds, Day/Night, 1991, porcelain enamel on two steel panels. Located at Pioneer Place Park, 100 Yesler Way.
Weekly Art Hit is featuring artworks every week from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the city’s public art program.