Walker Art Center gave the public its first look at a newly commissioned work by Native artist Angela Two Stars that will be situated in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden where "Scaffold" once stood.
"Okciyapi (Help Each Other)" will be unveiled Oct. 9.
"I specifically chose this site with the awareness that there was a need for healing, for both the community and the land itself," said Two Stars, a Twin Cities-based artist who is Dakota and a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. "As part of the installation process, my family led a ground cleansing ceremony at the site, to help all of us to move forward in positivity and celebration."
In 2017, the Walker came under fire when it installed "Scaffold," a massive sculpture by L.A. artist Sam Durant referencing the history of capital punishment in the United States, including the gallows where 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato following the U.S.-Dakota War in 1862. It was dismantled after negotiations between Dakota representatives, the museum and the artist.
One result of those talks was the Indigenous Public Art Commission, inviting artists to create a piece of public art for the Walker's collection. The commission went to Two Stars.
Made of pre-cast engraved concrete with enameled metal panels, her sculpture is simultaneously a gathering space and a space to engage with Dakota language. It is laid out in a ringed configuration, like a ground-level theater, but the shape actually makes reference to the way a drop of water ripples out. A water vessel in the center reminds people that the word "Minnesota" derives from the Dakota phrase "Mni Sota Makoce," or "the land where the water reflects the clouds."
Audio, text and medicinal plants are part of the work, which is conceived in seven sections, representing Oceti Sakwin (People of Seven Council Fires), also known as the Great Sioux Nation. Dakota words and phrases are incorporated on the exterior and interior sides of the sculpture, which was inspired by Two Stars' grandfather, Orsen Bernard.
Two Stars, a public artist, curator, and director of All My Relations Gallery, is known for her work on Dakota language revitalization. In 2019, she created sidewalk stamps as part of a project honoring a Dakota village that once stood on the south shore of Lake Bde Maka Ska. This is her first work to enter the Walker's collection.
" 'Okciyapi (Help Each Other)' makes poetic connections between land, water, and language and creates a welcoming site of reflection," Walker executive director Mary Ceruti said in a statement Thursday. "The work adds an important Indigenous voice to the diverse group of artists from around the globe whose work is presented" in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
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