(American, White Earth Chippewa, b. 1953)
Primal Donna (Venus Anishinabe)
birchbark, found object, sinew; three units, largest is 9" x
12" x 10"
Tweed Associates’ Purchase Fund
Holmes’ Primal Donna (Venus Anishinabe) is a sculpture
that intelligently and economically unites materials, forms,
and ideas to arrive at a statement that is much greater than
the sum of its parts. Her own words, excerpted from a 1993
artist’s statement, say it best: “My work is focused
on defining and then crossing cultural boundaries and the social
values they imply. Being born a half-breed – Ojibwe/French/
English – I am a physical example of cultural diversity.
My work often addresses this, often humorously. A birch bark
bustier accompanied by birch bark high heels exemplifies the
confusion of modern versus traditional womanhood. The work
parallels the balance of my own earth journey, walking in two
worlds: Native/non-Native; physical/spiritual; reality/fantasy.
There is a strong spiritual message that addresses the environment,
relying on the voices of bark, feathers, horns, shells and
skins to speak their own messages. These materials are living
entities and they guide and help me, as I process and contemplate
my own existence.” For those not familiar with Ojibwe
material culture and the natural environment of the upper midwest,
it may be helpful to point out that birchbark is a plentiful
commodity from which functional containers of all types have
been made for centuries. In this case Holmes, whose background
includes fashion and costume design, implies that birchbark
may also be a container for the individual, and by implication,
the larger societal body.