Symbolism


Gallery 1:

Parfleche Visions and Moon Breast Mothers One Person Show

Moon Breast Mothers 2003
Symbolism of the Moon, Star, Color Number and Breast

The Moon is the feminine divinity of maturity and wisdom. For the Lakota, the moon, called 'henhapi wi' literally translated as 'female sun', represents the power of the night in a good way and symbolizes fullness and satisfaction. Coyolxauhqui had four hundred brothers (also exist in Cherokee cosmology) who were the stars and her Aztec icon depicts the constellation of Pleides in her hair. Diana was also associated with the constellation of the She Bear. Accordingly in the Greco-Roman world, the stars of the Milky Way came from the milk of the goddess because the root word for 'galaxy' means 'milk'. The intense and deep color blue described in Mexico as 'azul anil' is universally seen in sacred art, particularly in the depiction of Hindu deities and in Tibetan Buddhist 'tankas'. This color is also of particular significance to tribal Africans and Indigenous Americans.

Also sacred is the number nine, which has mystical properties of completion and is the number of the Goddess. I believe the breasts represent the nine major world religions which according to the writings of the Bah'i Faith are described as, 'breast of knowledge .bosom of sciences and arts', 'breasts of thy mercy. bosom of thy love'. I consider this devotional installation a statement of cultural and cosmic border crossing.

Forest Breast Goddess 2003

This piece is a tribute to the Hawaiian Goddess Wi' iaka, the sister of Pele, the Goddess of the Volcano.

Great Lakes Yoni 2003

The canoe is depicted as the female counterpart to the male paddle.

Fire Goddess Yoni 2003

The copper snake is a tribute to the great Fire Goddess of Aboriginal Australia.

13 Moons: Monkey, Jaguar, Parrot, Turtle, Snake, Lizard, Rose, Lily, Butterfly, Buffalo Skull, Yoni, Corn & Fish 2003

Each image has great significance for Indigenous people of the Americas as well as personal associations for women.

Parfleche Visions of Heaven and Earth Giving Birth to the Stars 2003

According to Lakota cosmology the stars were born at the intersection of heaven, earth and the four directions.

Parfleche Visions of Transformation 2003

The butterfly is a symbol of the transition between spiritual and material worlds, from the eternal world and out of the mother's womb.

Parfleche Visions of Eternal Time & Space 2003

Space symbolized by the directional cross is the feminine compliment to masculine time. We are the children of Father time and Mother space.

Parfleche Visions of Eternal Birthing 2003

The earth mother's birth canal, depicted in metallic colors, represents the minerals of the earth that are ravaged by mining and other destructive and desecrating acts.

Parfleche Visions Series: Artist Statement

These works are a tribute to Native women artists who have recorded and continue to record, cosmic and metaphysical truths in an abstract manner with coded language of color and form in spiritual shorthand.

The images represent mutual respect and reciprocity between heaven and earth and all dualities. They represent balance and harmony and are symbolic of both a past and future positive alternative for environmental salvation. These art pieces are in the format of the Parfleche that is traditionally done on rawhide by women of the Lakota and other Indigenous Nations of the Great Plains of what we call Turtle Island. They record cosmic truths or laws of the universe.

The invasion and destruction of our environment is a result of the lack of mutual respect and reciprocity (for what you take you give in return). The inspiration for this series, are those basic principles of survival manifested visually in these works. I consider making these works as an act of resistance.

Tatanka Ska Oyate (White Buffalo Nation) 2003

A feminine divine being, The White Buffalo Calf Maiden, brought the Sacred Pipe to the Lakota Nation. This piece is dedicated to her.

Tuswe'capi Tozi (Green Dragonflies) 2003

The dragonfly represents the spirit of a great Lakota chief and warrior. It is an emblem of a warrior because of its ability to maneuver out of difficulty. This piece is dedicated to the warrior. The word green is a combination of the Lakota words for blue 'to' and yellow 'zi'.

Kimimila (Butterfly) 2003

The butterfly is a symbol of transformation and new birth. It represents the eternal. This is dedicated to all newborns.

Wiaka Wanblee (Eagle Feather) 2003

The eagle feather is sacred because the eagle is the emissary of the 'Wakan Tanka', the Great Mystery/Creator. This is dedicated to all spiritual leaders.


Gallery 2:

Starblanket Heaven One Person Show

Buffalo Skull Moon 1997

In the Algonkian traditions of my paternal grandmother, Grandmother Moon has an essential place of importance. Our women have and still do practice traditional ceremonies around the phases of the moon. We understand her strength and wisdom and we know she is our support, like a grand cosmic matriarch, she waits to receive us in the hour that we go to the other side.

This work is a central piece for a larger work - It was originally created to be surrounded by buffalo skulls of the four directions. The crescent moon has an ancient association with the Goddess and more specifically with the Goddess of the Americas called Tonantzin/ Guadalupe, because she stands on one. The background color, a sacred blue, surrounds eight pointed morningstars who are the daughters of the moon.

January 12, 2003

Starblanket Heaven 1997

This piece was inspired by an event that occurred on the great prairie of North Dakota one morning at dawn on my way to the tribal office. It was a winter morning that I watched buffalo walk single file on a snow bank, a rare gift from my Buffalo relatives since they usually keep their distance. In profile they followed each other silhouetted by the sunrise and a rose sky.

The format of the piece was inspired by the Morningstar design used by our Lakota people as a sacred symbol and the visual prayer. This eight-pointed star design is traditionally used when we make our star blankets or quilts.

This star that rises in the East represents peace and understanding. It is the herald of the dawn and the planet Venus who we all know was named for a goddess.

January 12, 2003

Prairie Parfleche 1997

This piece was inspired by the beautiful rawhide paintings called 'parfleches' done by our Lakota and other indigenous women of the the Great Plains. While our men painted representational images that depicted linear or historical events in time, the women painted abstract symbols to represent eternal time. These abstract forms represented great cosmic truths with profound an esoteric significance. One particular symbol that is in the form of an X represents Heaven and Earth on a two-dimensional plane. Also of great significance is the diamond shape which I have incorporated in this piece as a metaphorical window to view the prairies.

Prairie Parfleche 1997,
Prairie Horizon Parfleche 1997

Traditional parfleche containers made or rawhide were functional objects used for storage by the Lakota and many other Native America peoples the Northern Plains. They were decorated with geometric designs like diamonds and other diagonal shapes. These designs, traditionally done by women, inspired my works on paper, Prairie Parfleche and Prairie Horizon Parfleche. These pieces use the parfleche designs as formats but are representational renderings of the Dakota sky and prairie. In this manner they are a departure from the symbolic abstract forms usually found on parfleche containers. In 1997, these works were part of a one-woman exhibit entitled, Starblanket Heaven at the Bismarck Art Gallery Association in honor of my family members from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota.

January 12, 2003


Gallery 3

She is the Four Directions: Transformational Crosses as Sacred Symbols of Life

Four Directions are: North (white) East (red) South (yellow) and West (blue-black) and represent the cultures of the Caucasian, Native American, Asian and African

Male /Female relationship is:

Time/Space

Circle/Directional Cross

Day/Night

Lizard/Turtle

Dry /Wet

Hard/Soft

Matte/Gloss

Birth/Conception

Box or cube / flat cross form

Protruding phallic forms like corn cob /Depressions are yoni

North to South is vertical axis/ East to West is horizontal axis

Moon and Turtle symbolism:

The Turtle has 13 sections of shell to correspond with 13 lunar months of The year and 28 scallops on edge of shell to correspond with 28 days of the Menstrual Cycle, four phases of the moon correspond to the four weeks of a month and Moon as Grandmother represents the post-menopausal status of women

Corn or Maize symbolism:

Corn or Maize is symbolic for the staff of life in all cultures like wheat, rice and other grains. The four colors of maize, were given to the Hopi, by the Creator. They are used here as a symbol of the four colors of humanity


Gallery 4:

Door to Heaven: Door From Heaven One Person Show

Heaven's Door 1993

This work is dedicated to the Ocean Mother Yemaya also known as the Virgin Mary who is a Divine Feminine in the Yoruba Tradition of West Africa and in the Roman Catholic tradition in the Mediterranean.

Yemaya's colors are celestial blue and white. Having the symbol of fish, she is a Creation Goddess often depicted as a mermaid, associated with the moon, the water and female mysteries. She is also the Goddess of the New Year in the tradition of Yoruba, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian people who also know her as the Yoruban Orisha of the living Ocean, considered the Mother of All. She is the Mother of gods and Creation, the source of all waters including rivers.

In the Catholic tradition the Mother of God is called Virgin Maria, whose title comes from the Latin word 'mare' that translates as ocean. The Virgin's colors are also celestial blue and white. Virgin Processions carrying her images to the ocean is a strong tradition in the Mediterranean and often she is put on a boat as a benediction to ensure bounty for the fishermen.

Birth is at the very root of the Italian word for Christmas or 'Natale'. It is as much about the Mother of God as the Son of God and fish is eaten traditionally on Christmas Eve in Italy. She gave birth to a fisher of souls who also walked on his Mother the Ocean and thus she is called the Ocean of Mercy in the Baha'i tradition.


Gallery 5:

Sacred Door One Person Show

Grandmother Moon and Her Corn Moon Daughters 1992

This work is inspired by my participation in the Full Moon ceremonies of our Native peoples in the Eastern and Great Lakes Woodlands. It also pays homage to the Moon as a sacred feminine icon of maturity and wisdom who support her corn moon daughters.

Grandmother Moon, represented by the firm moon shape of the center square, is literally supporting her daughters represented by the soft sculptural moon shapes that surround a red corn of the east, a yellow corn of the south, a blue corn of the west and a white corn of the north. The corn, in this case, is representative of the male counterpart and symbolizes how male and female define one another. And, it is also a metaphor for all humanity defined as Caucasian, Native, Asian and African who are similarly composed of that which corn is also composed.

Grandmother Moon as this cosmic cruciform is an ever-present guardian although not always visible. This work is a devotional piece dedicated to this divine feminine powerful presence and force of nature.

Virgin of Guadalupe is the Corn Mother 1992

This work portrays a Divine Feminine of the Americas, symbolizing the cosmic yoni that gives birth to corn. It draws parallels between she who is known as Selu or Corn Mother of the Cherokee and the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico. Her Aztec name in their Nahuatl language is, Tonantzin that translates as 'Mother of Gods'.


Gallery 9:

Works from Group Shows

Aztec Virgin Mother 2001

Based on Native American Scholarship, particularly around Southeastern Native and Meso-American iconography, my art is influenced by our Indigenous teachings of healing, balance and a spirituality that is centered and permeated in our earth - based cultures. It is also influenced by the Indigenous view that art has no separation from the interconnection of all things in a tribal society and that the balance between the feminine elements and energies with masculine elements and energies produce a state of well being.

The work explores the multi-faceted side of the Native American Goddess of healing known as Earth Mother, Selu, Changing Woman, Corn Mother or Tonantzin - 'Aztec Virgin Mother'. They are:

Jaguar Side (Mammal) is a testimony to the fierce warrior spirit and sexual prowess of the Goddess with the magical and mysterious transmission of power.

Butterfly Side (Insect) represent the gentle transformational character of the Goddess manifested in the biological world and is a metaphor for the evolution from the cocoon state of consciousness to the spiritual liberation of acceptance. The butterfly balances the fierce Jaguar side.

Rattlesnake Side (Reptile) is the undulating terrestrial rhythm of the Diamondback Rattlesnake that attests to the birth-death power of the Goddess with the earth as giver of life and cradle of death.

Hummingbird/ Sun Side (Bird) is the offspring of the Goddess, the son/consort of the classic Goddess mythology. The Hummingbird balances the celestial aspect with that of the terrestrial rattlesnake.

The center is the birth of flora from the "yoni" of the Mother Earth. In this case the rose color symbolizes eternity and the "yoni" has significance because is the doorway to eternity

Each aspect of the Goddess represents the teachings for humanity of our complex natures, respecting the differences, coming into acceptance and wholeness.

Note: The Aztec Virgin Mother refers to the Virgin of Guadalupe

January 12, 2003

Buffalo Skull Quilt Satin Square 1997

Depicted is the buffalo skull that is the sacred altar of the pipe religion practiced by the traditional people of the Lakota Nation. In my work as an artist, this altar is also a symbol of the uterus because we women have the sacred power to give birth, both biologically and through creative expression.

Our people say that women are the backbone of the nation and only when the hearts of the women are crushed to the ground only then is the nation broken.

This work says that we as women and mothers of nations must be honored and respected so that as a human race we can survive and progress in harmony with Makoce (mah-kaw-chey) who is Ina (Ee-nah) or Earth who is Mother.

We Lakota have both woman's language and man's language and mutual respect according to our teachings. My language is visual and verbal but it does not matter who I am. It does matter that I tell you these things from the heart that always speaks the truth.

Artist Statement for Piecework 1997

My contribution to this long awaited but nonetheless great commitment on the part of Coast To Coast: National Women Artists of Color, does not reflect my individuality but my collective identity as a Lakotawi. It speaks about more than who I am as an individual woman. It says that as an indigenous woman of the Americas I share my 'womanity' with the feminine divine forces manifested through spirituality in nature.


Collective Voices Installation/Medicine Wheel 1992

Representing the circle of life and the four directions, the Medicine Wheel is a symbol of profound meaning for Native Americans.

Corn Mother 1989

This work is a seminal piece that began my journey into the creation of transformational works depicting very graphically the sacredness and power of birthing. In this piece, Corn Mother gives cosmic birth to corn, a sacred plant that is both male and female. This work is a metaphor of creation.

Lupe In The Sky With Diamonds 2007

He said Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds
but I say -- Lupe In the Sky with Diamonds!
Who said mysticism is not a drug?
Aren't stars the most awesome bling-bling?"

Poem by the Artist

This work eludes to Tonantzin, the Aztec Virgin Mother also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is a devotional piece in reverence to the Divine Feminine and the power of birthing.

Inspired by my own Native American scholarship and Meso-American iconography, this piece is also influenced by our Indigenous teachings of healing, balance and spirituality. It is a spirituality that is centered and permeated in our earth - based cultures for which the Sacred Feminine is at the center of creation and where the yoni or birth opening is sacred.

The diamonds or stars are symbolic of the constellation associated with the Guadalupe icon. This constellation, appearing in the sky, was imprinted on her mantle at the time of her apparition in sacred space (the center of the Americas) and sacred time (December 12, 1531). Her star covered mantle represents the Virgo Super Cluster (Astronomers term for the cluster of galaxies) that holds within her, the Milky Way galaxy and our solar system.

Unlike Lucy in the Beatles classic, my journey of discovery is without the artificial euphoria induced by chemicals. My euphoria is mystically induced through my work that is as a vehicle for the language of the Goddess.


NYC: Algonquin at the Core 2005

The cultural/spiritual iconography of the turtle as Native America or Turtle Island is part of the creation story of New York's first Natives, the Algonquin, from the perspective of an Algonquin artist today.

The representation of the three sister plants: Corn, Beans, Squash on the backs of the turtles are also important inclusions.

The two wampum belts, one around this upper and the other around the bottom circumference of the apple provide symbolic designs of great simplicity but of deep significance.

Tobacco offerings are respectfully left as a visual reminder of our connection with the Mannit (Creator/Creation Spirit). This sacred plant called 'Apook' by my Powhatan (People of the Dream Vision) ancestors was a gift so that we could commune with the Manito Aki (Spirit World).

NYC: Algonquin at the Core: Artist Statement

As a Native American (Cherokee/Lakota/Powhatan) artist whose heritage is Algonquin on the part of my paternal grandmother (Powhatan), my work will honor the original Algonquin (Lenape) ancestors of New York City's five boroughs and the greater Metropolitan area including Long Island. I also acknowledge our larger and extended Algonquian speaking family that includes people from Eastern Canada, Northeast, Mid Atlantic, Southeast (Virginia), the Great Lakes Woodlands and wherever they have migrated.

NYC: Algonquin at the Core: A Dedication

This installation is dedicated to my maternal grandmother known affectionately as "Little Snapping Turtle" who, in the 1950's on a Saturday night before she watched wrestling on T.V., bought two cigarettes at the corner candy store sold loosely a "twodaloos".

January 2005

Retablo for Frida 1997

As an artist and Native art scholar, this work represents the life of Frida as a woman, artist, and indigenous person whose work incorporates much of her deeply rooted Native traditions. I chose to paint this art piece as a tribute in the form of a 'retablo' or traditional Mexican devotional art.

I chose to use this intense cobalt blue with the indigo fluorescence that Frida referred to as 'azul ail' because she painted her house this color to ward off evil. This intense blue is also associated with the Christ Consciousness and therefore it represents the heavenly realm of spiritual consciousness where Frida has finally found serenity.

In this piece, I presented Frida, who I admired because of the love and respect she demonstrated for our indigenous peoples and traditions, surrounded by images of great personal and cosmological significance.

Top
Her husband Diego is depicted as the sun, moon and stars

Left
Parrots were her pets but they are also sacred to certain Native American Peoples

Center
A now serene Frida

Right
The deer was the pet she most identified with and is also sacred to native peoples of the Americas

Bottom
Corn is a numbers sacred gift that is both male and female and depicted as such. It represents her connection with the earth

This color blue is also found in other spiritual traditions and it is considered as sacred color with protective qualities. It is found in the Tankas of the Tibetans and is often the color of Hindu god Krishna. It is also used for protection by to West Africans.

January 12, 2003

Wampum Moons of Change 2009

Each 12" square canvas has soft sculptural pieces of Lenape (Algonquin Nation) and Dutch symbols done in mixed media with acrylic based paints. The images are both abstract and representational.

This installation represents the Native and non-Native perspectives in a metaphorical rendering of contrast between the circle and the square with all the implications of incompatibility or the future possibilities of exchange. The titles include words in the Munsee dialect of the Lenape language spoken by the original New Yorkers and words in the Dutch and English languages.

The basic purple and creamy white colored palette of the installation is based on the colors of wampum. The purple section called sacki, has twice as much value as the white section, called wampi. Wampum made from the shell of a Quohog (clam) was used as currency and is still used as adornment and as a passport to the spiritual world by the Lenape and other Algonquin Nations today. Their Northern neighbors, the Hodenosaunee (Iroquioan Six Nations) used wampum to make treaty belts for tribal histories and agreements.

Lenape Images

According to the Lenape creation story, the world was created on the back of the Takwx (turtle) hence the North American continent is called 'Turtle Island'. The moon called, Niipahum by the Lenape is known as Grandmother to Algonquin Nation people. Pearls, like those gathered at the shore, at a site now called Pearl Street, surround her. Kwshhteew (tobacco) and Wiingiimaskw (sweetgrass) are sacred plants used for spiritual reasons.

Mhkahkw (squash) Maalxkwsiit (beans) Xwskwiim (corn) are called the Three Sisters because they are the traditional foods of the Lenape and grow together in a symbiotic manner. These foods were also traditional for the Hodenosaunee. These three eaten together provide all nutrients necessary for a healthy diet. The pelts of the Amxkw (beaver) were an important basis of economic exchange between the Lenape and European newcomers.

Dutch & English Images

In the new phase of the moon, a brick building or Gebouw represents change. Also depicted is a windmill or Molen another of the first important structures in the Nieuw Amsterdam on Manhattan Island called Menatay by the Lenape. In the crescent moon is the gold coin or Gouden Munt also representing change. In the half moon phase, is the title of the boat called the 'Half Moon' on which the English explorer Henry Hudson arrived in New York Bay.

Personal History

I am a descendant of an Algonquin nation (Powhatan) Great Grandfather named James Willis Randolph from Virginia and a Dutch-American Great Grandmother named Ella Tice Randolph from the Bronx, whose ancestors arrived in the 17th century. Therefore this installation has been a most personal and soul-searching endeavor and undoubtedly is dedicated to my Algonquin Nation relatives the Lenape and my Dutch ancestors, who discovered one another in the 17th century.

Warrior Woman Stance 1997 Drawing /2005 Digital Image

The four sacred colors of the Lakota are represented in this piece and for me, recognize all humanity. They are red, white, yellow and black (substituted with blue). This global recognition and acceptance of those newly arrived to our shores is inherent in the teachings of many of our tribal nations who received instructions from the Creator to be accepting, mutually respectful, extend generosity and understand the wisdom of reciprocity.

This self-portrait shows me in traditional Lakota dance regalia with my arm raised to recognize an honor beat played by the drummers at powwows. The honor beat stance predates the creation of the statue yet, unintentionally resembles the stance of Lady Liberty. For me, it is a powerful statement and strong connection between this great American icon and the warrior woman spirit of Native America.

This work honors Lady Liberty, Native America and all humanity.

Nadema Agard

Winyan Luta/Red Woman

(Cherokee/Lakota/Powhatan)