Way of Sorrows
IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), Santa Fe ~ 2020
Charlene Teter’s work often addresses the realities of the day, trying to make it accessible to viewers. The centerpiece of Way of Sorrows is our lady figure, a life-sized image of Charlene as Our Lady of Survival, dressed in the tin-foil emergency blankets provided to children and adults in captivity at the border. She asks “Are we truly at a point of fearing having a little less, in order to welcome the stranger to our homeland who has nothing.”
Way of Sorrows looks starkly at the birth of savior mythologies, asking instead “on whose shoulders does responsibility not reside?” Could it be we are a species best defined as our-own-worse-enemy? Are we truly at a point of some fearing having a little less in order to welcome the stranger who has nothing: no earthly possessions, no place to call home, no place of safety or ceremony? Are we again out of complacency, inaction, cheerleading or silence, building silos of hate from fear?
From famine, disease, and empire, Native people have experienced forced migrations and marches. There have been many trails of tears and marches of death in this hemisphere since Columbus. The caravans of refugees coming to the USA’s southern border are part of an uninterrupted history of forced migrations and trails of tears. Those who deny these ‘huddled masses’ on the US-Mexico border do so, in part, to deny the obvious – manmade climate crisis may soon make refugees of us all. No wall will protect us from the wrath of a dying planet. Walls and armies, policies and politics, hate and dehumanization aimed at hording the idea of ‘The Other, The Temporary’ are a fool’s errand in the face of impending global disaster.
Way of Sorrows seeks a spirit of hope, represented through photo murals of the artist robed in silver and gold emergency blankets like those given to the desperate, separated, forgotten and interned refugees around this planet. This is a new myth of ancient vision and wisdom; the mother-savior – Our Lady of Survival.
Hope, that we can finally be seen as human beings by each other, and build a future for our collective descendants out of love and respect. Surely, we are all canaries in a mine of our own digging.