Native Cultures

African:  When I was young, my great aunt and uncle built a rubber plantation in Liberia. They brought back to the family farm in Maine great wooden trunks filled with spears, masks, kenta cloths, and many wonderful objects from Africa. Later, when my family would spend summers at “the farm,” my sister and I took afternoon naps in beautiful woven fiber tasseled hammocks we hung between pines. Thus, my adoration and discovery of Maine was inextricably intertwined with African textiles and carved wooden images. In Paris, we discovered Ibu Tall at the market, who understood immediately my love for the art he brings out of Africa, and we have collected some esthetically superb pieces from him. The paintings reflect all the things I have seen in museums and private collections from Africa, which have such presence and directness.

Native American:  The first painting in this series is entitled “Voices of My Iroquois Ancestors”. It came into being just before Easter 2004, a few months after my mother, Elizabeth Fuller, had passed on. I had been inspired to paint two versions of “The Descent from the Cross” in a tenebristic palette recalling Rembrandt. The gold leaf, dramatic sky, and the figures somehow led to an entirely abstract piece so elemental that it amazed me. Deep blues of the sea and sky contrasted with sand, clay, and embers of a log fire. Or was it the “glory hole” that the glassmaker uses to melt the mass of glass before it takes shape? The painting emerged as one of the most direct paintings I had produced as a mature artist. A series soon followed “Voices,” and the inspiration seemed to emanate from my association with New York State’s Finger Lakes region. In fact, a several times great grandmother came from that area. She was of the Cayuga nation of the Iroquois, and married an ancestor from Scotland who had fought on the American side in the Revolution. Generations later, my grandfather, Chester T. Fuller, was kidnapped by his mother, Nellie Simmons (a sharpshooter in the circus and known as the “Annie Oakley of the South). Nellie was a descendent of Mary Jane Palmer McEachron, the Cayuga Indian. In any event, my grandfather was raised in Clarksville, Tennessee, where as a boy he hunted for Indian artifacts and studied Native American lore. After returning to New York State to be reunited with his father, he later passed his love of nature and the Native American culture to my mother, who in turn fostered my appreciation of this heritage. The paintings are a tribute to her deep relationship to a world not of this time, but earlier and very close to the natural rhythms of nature.

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