Tonto’s Earthen House is a hip hangout. It’s new public art that is also a part of a fundraising auction back home in Tlingit country.
Aldona Jonaitis Ph.D., the Director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North wrote a very brief description of “Tonto’s Earthen House” for a catalog produced as part of the Tináa fund raising auction for the Sealaska Heritage Institute:
Tlingit photographer Larry McNeil, well known for his compelling and often humorous and satirical collages, has become increasingly concerned by the global climate crisis that so few people today seem to be taking seriously, and fewer still endeavor to do something about. His current series, “The Home Planet,” is addressed not so much to today’s audience, but more to people born after 2031. By that time, people will wonder why we were so careless with our environment.
According to this photograph, part of the explanation is our insatiable appetite for gasoline. This complex image first appeared in Boise as a 12 foot wide public art project and incorporates Tlingit imagery — the Chilkat weaving design juxtaposed on the “Chilkat blue” 1959 Cadillac and silver engraved bumpers — as well as the ambiguous pair of Tonto and the Lone Ranger (here inside a jail). Since he’s an Indian, Larry is supposed to be spiritual, so his “sacred symbols” are the strip of film drawn onto the wall, and, next to it, the swirling, “cosmic” image of an aperture. The self-referential camera sits in the back of the car, ready to take more photos. Indicators of the climate crisis include that gas-guzzling car as well as the bicycle Larry used to drive to work before being destroyed by a 5000 pound SUV. Sitting at the wheel of the gas-guzzling car is Larry himself, who wears a particulate mask woven from spruce root “because it’s a health hazard to pedal my bike in the thick carbon dioxide emitted from cars.”
“Tontos’s Earthen House” was made as part of the Boise Traffic Box Public Art Project, and is installed across from the downtown theater.
Gunalshéesh, thank you everyone, including my home team whom helps make all this work possible: Debi McNeil, my wife, partner & studio manager, and T’naa McNeil, our son and most excellent photographer’s assistant.
“Tonto’s Earthen House” will be amongst many other contemporary masterpieces of Northwest Coast art. The auction is designed to help raise funds for the construction of the Walter Soboleff Center.
Story and Photographs Copyright Larry McNeil 2014, All Rights Reserved.