Local Ogden Artist Richard Ramos painted a piece in the stylings of Picasso to bring attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. One of the highest callings for an artist is activism. Here is his artist statement: GuernicAmerica 96″ X 48″ Acrylic on Canvas 2016 The following is an explanation about why I chose to use Picasso’s Guernica as a template for this new painting. Guernica is a mural size canvas painting created by Pablo Picasso in 1937 for the Spanish Pavilion of the World’s Fair in Paris. In short it depicts the bombing of a Basque town in Spain called Guernica at the time Spain is being ravaged by a civil war.
The Republican state is being overthrown by a fascist regime led by Generalissimo Francisco Franco. His Nationalist party promises the return of the country to “the golden days of Spain”, based on law, order, and traditional Catholic family values. (Picasso.org) Sound familiar? Guernica was seen as a strong hold of the Republican resistance and thus it’s value as a target. Hitler who had lent support to Franco’s Nationalist party was using Spain’s civil war as a testing ground for new weapons and tactics. The bombing carried out by the Nazis lasted for three hours resulting in 1600 civilians being killed or wounded. This painting has become an icon for the atrocities of war. It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. Even people who don’t know Picasso painted it know the painting.
Just as other contemporary artists have done, I have used the template of Guernica as inspiration for the painting you see here. The black and white palette with the distorted and fragmented figures convey a sense of chaos, destruction, and violence. I have interpreted the original Guernica in terms that fit a portion of American history as I see it. Although the current struggle of the indigenous people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies, among whom I count myself, is a starting point for this piece, I am also citing the 500 year history of the mistreatment and denigration of indigenous peoples by the immigrants who invaded this land. Again, sound familiar?
Not only have they disrespected and abused people, but possibly even more so the land itself! All racial issues aside, this assault on the land, the water, the air, and the people for temporary monetary gain serving a tiny percentage of the population (the elite) spells disaster for us all! I generally agree with Picasso that the symbolism in a visual work of art need not be explained because no matter what, the viewer will bring their own interpretations with them or form them upon viewing the piece. Just research Picasso’s Guernica (or just about any painting) and you will see that interpretations can vary wildly. In fact, look at any political situation and you will find that there is no clear cut interpretation or opinion that does not have it’s opposite. If nothing else, art creates a dialogue and that is why it is so important to us. This being said, I would like to point out that there is hope imbedded in my version.
Those who choose to ignore the interconnectedness of all things suffer from a sickness which poisons everything and leaves nothing for future generations. It is well known that one of the first European conquerors of the Americas, Cortez, told Moctezuma that he suffered from a sickness of the heart which could only be cured by gold. What was the great bull in Picasso’s painting, which may represent power and brutality, has been transformed into to the white bison which I choose to represent the indigenous keepers of a wisdom that the oppressors choose to ignore. It represents the Sacred. The bison’s third eye represents the ability to see the spiritual side of life that interconnects all beings, the earth, and all of the elements. The sickness of the oppressors causes the third eye to close and they choose not to listen to the heart. The sick ones believe in technology, power, and monetary wealth over all. They call this infrastructure claiming that it is best for us all and must be implemented at any cost. They refuse to see the infrastructure that is already in place throughout creation which creates the balance that nurtures life. The oil, water and other elements are in perfect harmony without our intervention. The sick ones call the elements “resources” and claim all rights to exploit them not only here, but globally to build their infrastructure. However, they intend to benefit the few at the expense of the many. We know this by their actions not their words. What the sick ones do not know is that the Earth, the Water, and the Air are sacred things that we cannot live without and they are destroying these sacred things. All of earth’s creatures including the sick ones are made of these sacred elements and therefore, are sacred as well. We all know this. Even if you don’t believe there is a spiritual or sacred side of life, at this late date how can you deny that there is a balance that if not restored by us, will be restored at our peril?
It is my feeling that most of us, upon just a few minutes of quiet reflection, would agree that there is something sacred in the earth and it’s people. If not, you need to visit a forest, a stream, or a mountain top very soon! Those who protect the sacred protect even the sick ones from themselves. In the end we will win, we being the side who stands firmly united by love, not greed. This is what bird represents. Call it a dove if you like. Balance will be restored even if human extinction is required. If only the sick ones could see that the real power comes not from the violence against the earth, against the people, but through love. The people at Standing Rock are protecting the sacred! Standing Rock, I promise you no matter which side steps down or is pummeled, is not the last stand. It is only the beginning for many of us and it is just one more battle in 500 years of battle for the protectors. The military machine would have already destroyed the protectors if any real violence had been perpetrated against it. It seeks that provocation so that it can feel justified in it’s own violence. There have been angry words and senseless acts in this struggle, but the Fact that the protectors still stand shows that they stand unarmed, prayerful, and confident in the ability of nonviolence and love.
If you took the time to read this, I thank you. I am not a scholar nor do I claim to know much of anything, but this comes from my heart. Peace be with you whatever your stance. Please reach out and help our relatives if you can. To end I will paraphrase H.H. The Dalai Lama, It is good to pray, but God did not create this problem. Humans created this problem and it is up to us to solve it. #Ogden #DAPL #Activism #ArtActivism #OgdenCity