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Chris Pappan

Howageji Nizhuje Akipé (Where the Rivers Meet) (1)

Pencil / graphite and gouache on Rives BFK, Image: 44"h x 30"w, Frame: 52"h x 38"w, Item No. 21333,

Part 1 of 3 of Confluence Triptych

The “Y” shape is an official municipal device within the city of Chicago and evokes the confluence of the Chicago River as itreaches Wolf Point.  The river is woven into three distorted portraits that signify the abusive alteration of land (a process known as "checkerboarding") and water, the forced removal of Infigenous people, and the effects of colonialism in our communities. 

I came across the photo of the Sac and Fox man who becomes the North Branch of the Chicago River in the work, and he is unnamed in the photograph. the other man is named White Eagle and he’s Ponca. The Sac and Fox were originally from the area now known as Illinois and were eventually moved down to Indian territory. These photographs came from the collection of the Huntington Library in Pasadena.  With the tessellation or distortion, the perception of the figure becomes different, as though you’re perceiving something else. I’m taking one section of the photograph and then repeating it 4 timnes, then the next section and repeating it 4 times. It’s very manipulated but organic at the same time in how it comes together and breaks apart and comes together again.  It’s analogous to how human beings are reacting to each other. We come together and then break apart, throughout history, throughout our lives.

It can also be a metaphor for city living) and how our lives interact within this grid. That’s all part of colonization, establishing the city, making it into a grid, and dividing it all up but still having an identity as one city. The river runs through the middle of it, which speaks to how the colonizers have interacted, then destroyed the environment and are now trying to rectify the sins of the past.

– Chris Pappan