The concept of “Cultural Fortitude” came about after seeing the Washington Monument and then completing a two week residency in Mesa Verde several years ago. (Mesa Verde happens to be a World Heritage Cultural Site and contains a wealth of knowledge about the Puebloan architectural style.) I wanted to reinterpret the monument with reference to the fact that this design had been common in the United States even before the European invasion. The alcove ruins throughout the southwest had buildings similar in shape, called tower houses.
What I did was replicate the obelisk feature, with two walls creating a tower house. The front was designed to give the impression of a cliff’s edge. On the top of that, I made a round Kiva to acknowledge its importance from the beginning. This was also to serve as an acknowledgement of the development of the Puebloan architectural style from pit houses to the Puebloan structures that we are more familiar with in modern times.
The Kiva has played an important role throughout history. In the beginning it was a gathering place where the children would learn about the responsibilities of their culture and the making of their crafts that served as utilitarian tools. These items are now considered highly collectible, and are still being produced by the Puebloan culture today. In modern times, as the ceremonies became more elaborate, the children still learn about their responsibilities within the confines of the kiva. As a result, this particular structure has played a prominent role throughout time as the place of learning and preservation of a belief system. Therefore, it still remains the stronghold for teaching in a traditional way.
On the front of the piece, I placed petroglyph symbols from Mesa Verde. the ancient symbols are messages left to us by our ancestors. I also inset modern cloud symbols into the piece to recognize the past and the present in our art forms, since petroglyph symbols really are an art unto themselves. Together, the petroglyphS and clouds on this piece represent an answer to our prayers as the clouds form to bring the rains for our corn to grow tall and healthy. Finally, I placed the corn as the central focal point on the piece to emphasize the importance of its role in helping mankind survive for many centuries. The cultivation of heirloom crops in a harsh desert region is an annual ritual in Puebloan cultures. It symbolizes the struggles and the ability of a people to believe and hold hope within their hearts.