oted Native American conceptual artist Edgar Heap of Birds just completed a two-week residency entitled ‘Hidden Histories’ at East Central University.
Throughout the residency, Heap of Birds worked with students enrolled in the art department sculpture 2 class and students with the Native American Students Association (NASA). Work with the two groups took two different tracks.
The Sculpture II students worked with Heap of Birds to construct one of his signature pieces on the campus. The work consisted of four ‘street signs’ located along Stadium Drive, just south of Tiger Commons dorm on the ECU campus. The signs have the word Oklahoma in reverse, as if one is looking in a rear-view mirror and the statement “your host is” followed by the names of four local Indian nations – Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and Creek.
The signs reflect that often native heritage is reduced to names on road signs and entices the viewer to think about those who preceded them in history at a particular place. Sculpture students worked to install and place the signs as well as worked with local codes enforcement agencies to insure that the placement was to code and safely installed.
Heap of Birds worked with Native American Students Association to develop smaller temporary signs that were placed on campus. These signs reflect the thoughts of and discoveries of the NASA students through their discussions and research conducted with Heap of Birds.
Those thoughts were then designed using standard computer programs and then printed onto small coroplast signs that were commercially produced. These were then placed on the main campus in high traffic areas, again with the thought of generating a dialogue between viewers.
This is one of the few times where Heap of Birds’ work has been installed in Oklahoma. Heap of Birds is a professor of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma; has been a visiting professor at Yale University and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
He has exhibited and has works in museum collections worldwide. Heap of Birds was one of the four United States’ representatives to the Venice Biennale in 2009, the world’s most prestigious art exhibit.
The larger street signs will be on view for several months. The smaller temporary signs will be on view for three weeks. The project was supported by the ECU Foundation and a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts.