All my native american relations

By Alexandra Kukulka

Habitat for Humanity did more than bring together two young Columbia artists to give back to the community; it also helped them explore their artistic ability. After taking a trip with the to Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, S.D., photographer Melinda Myers, a Columbia alumna, and writer Francesca Thompson, senior fiction writing major, combined their talents to start an art exhibit.

The exhibit is called “All My Relations,” and it represents the artists’ five-week journey through the reservation and the people they met. The exhibit will be open on Oct. 8–15 at Maya Essence, 4357 N. Lincoln Ave.

“Since Melinda and I are both artists, we just decided that we wanted to collaborate and make art that people could come and see,” Thompson said. “As a writer, it is more difficult for people to take in your art, unless it’s published. But with photography you can go and see it anywhere. I thought it would be good for us to collaborate so that my fiction could be represented with her photography.”

Thompson has visited the reservation with Habitat for Humanity for three years. She has been working on her fiction pieces little by little every trip and decided to finish them off with Myers’ photos, she said.

According to Thompson, the artists met at Columbia when she was trying to get a group of Columbia students to join her on a trip to the reservation with Habitat

for Humanity.

“I was walking down the hallway and saw a flier about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on an Indian reservation,” Myers said. “I went to the meeting and, that’s how I met Fran.”

Once the artists reached their destination, they decided to collaborate and make art together.

“[‘All My Relations’] is inspired by the people who live there, and the place, it’s very unique and a small town,” Thompson said. “It is also not unique in that Native American reservations across the U.S. have the same plight and deal with poverty, alcoholism and drugs.”

Another element of the artwork is capturing the traditions and culture of the reservation, Thompson said. She was determined to capture this with her words because she has Lakota Sioux ethnicity and doesn’t know much about it.

She wants to learn more though, and going there to volunteer is the best way to do it, she said. According to Thompson, her stories are based on the people she met on the reservation. The theme of her pieces and the exhibit is an erosion of culture and tradition,

she said.

“[The stories] are about how culture and tradition affect way of life on the reservation, how it brings people together and how it pushes them away,” Thompson said.

In the stories, she talks about modern life on the reservation so that people can see there is more to Native-Americans today than just “teepees and

buffalo hunting.”

The photographs give people a glimpse into what life is like on the reservation, according to Myers.

“My images portray more of a positive aspect of the Indian Reservation,” she said.

In the exhibit, the photos will be 12 by 12 inches and will hang on the wall attached by magnets, Thompson said. The fiction pieces are short, so Thompson will write them by hand and hang them on the wall next to the photos, she added.

The exhibit will consist of 30 photos and 10 short story pieces, according to Thompson.

Myers is part of an artist collective called Escapism that meets at Maya Essence, which is a collective art gallery that allows local artists to display and critique

their work.

“I really believe in what they were trying to portray with their whole going out there [and] focusing on Habitat for Humanity to help build housing,” said Roanna DelaCruz, Maya Essence gallery manager. “[Myers’] photos blew me away because she’s mostly an analogue-type artist, and Fran’s words just danced on the paper with everything she was trying to say. I felt [the art] would blend well with Maya Essence.”

The opening ceremony is free and open to the public. It takes place on Oct. 8 at 6 p.m.