Gina Adams is a multi-disciplinary artist who traces her lineage to both the Indigenous Ojibwe tribe, and also to President John Adams. Her work strives to connect the history and cultural practices of her ancestors with the modern era, and makes a very powerful statement on a legacy of “treaties made – treaties broken”. (links in the bio)
Adams spent her childhood in the San Francisco area until her family relocated to Maine in her teenage years. She received her BFA from the Maine College of Art, and her MFA from the University of Kansas. Since that time, she has shown and lectured all over the world. She is an Assistant Professor at Emily Carr University of Art & Design in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Adams’s work makes overtly political statements about the history of the Indigenous people in America and the assimilation culture that has been forced upon them. One of the elements that she uses is slip-cast, ceramic basketballs with an encaustic design of traditional beadwork on it. I love how the surface decoration makes her point by being blurred by the texture of the basketball. Basketball has been used as a tool of assimilation in that many Indigenous people are known only because of their involvement on a team. Their culture is erased because our engagement emphasizes the sport over the people who play it.
I am, however, most fond of her quilts. Adams takes antique quilts and sews on phrases from various historical treaties between the government and the Indigenous tribes. She showcases the confusing language and conflicting statements that are typical in the more-than 350 broken promises. Her use of quilts as the medium is perfect as well. Quilts have always conveyed images of community and warmth to me but were historically used to spread disease among indigenous people.
Issues of social justice often have a history that cannot be ignored if we are to enact real change. Adams’s work reminds us that we must first re-earn our social integrity through action and not words. Behind every issue are people who deserve to be seen and heard, and treated with respect. We must accept, not assimilate, the diverse cultures around us.
I am fascinated by stories passed down, both from my own familiar heritage and those told by others. I believe that the passing down of memories is what keeps our genetic heritage alive. I am interested in, and seek out others, who have a similar story to tell, and I immerse myself in their shadows. I do so in order to tell my story more clearly, and doing so helps to clarify what I want the work to say visually.
There is a connection to what the ancient ones taught my ancestors, as this information was passed down generation to generation. I consider my work a spiritual endeavor in which the process of making is a ritual. I decided to learn how to make objects in order to have a better understanding of my ancestors and how I am similar to them. The process of making imbues my identity with an ancestral connection to the sacred and the ritual object.
In storytelling I am moved by a sense of discovery and connection, much of it deeply rooted in place and land. My life’s journey is about where the land, peoples, and stories come together. It is my wish that the viewer will add their own experience to my work. Thank you for taking the time for your own discovery, as it brings meaning to the day.