Stone sculptor Stewart Steinhauer has placed the fourth and final piece of his latest assembly, which joins his other works at Kunze Gallery on Northwest Boulevard at Pine Street.
Ancient Grandmother Beings Supporting Woman Rising Up is Steinhauer’s title for the assembly, which he has created using several different types of stone.
The Advance presents the story of the art work in Steinhauer’s words:
“First of all, and perhaps most importantly, the new four piece assembly is driven by creative inspiration arising out of the on-going collaborative work between Sandy Kunze and myself.
“A second strong influence behind the creation of this story-telling assembly is the current planning work that occupies much of my creative dreamtime, as I slowly move toward an understanding of the pre-colonial matri-focal social form enjoyed by many indigenous peoples here on Turtle Island. This social form was unfortunately destroyed as a practical day-to-day living entity during Canada’s period of active cultural genocide, but remains alive as an element stored in the library of living memory, the library of record employed by all oral tradition societies.
“The swirling of the matri-focal social form in my dreamtime, energized by the collaborative activity between me and Kunze, has produced a localized early version of my vision of a matri-focal future.
“In my vision, the Wolf Grandmother, the Full Moon Grandmother, the Rock Grandmother, and the Bear Grandmother are all gathered around a human female form whom we see in several stages of her life, and not necessarily linear-progression-in-time stages, but possibly slipping back and forth, from stage to stage, in reaction to other outside forces. The working title for the human figurative piece is Woman Rising Up.
“The Ktunaxa Peoples’ Spirit of the Mountain Grizzly represents the Bear Grandmother, and a substantial Creston Valley glaciated granite boulder represents the Rock Grandmother. The two are placed so that the Spirit of the Mountain Grizzly, standing on top of the glaciated boulder Rock Grandmother, is facing Woman Rising Up, symbolically pouring energy into the human female, bonding her down into the earth. We see Woman Rising Up going through the non-linear experience of becoming transformed by the effect of exposure to the Spirit of the Mountain Grizzly, while in the background, the Rock Grandmother, the Full Moon Grandmother and the Wolf Grandmother observe, beaming their loving support towards the human female.
“The Full Moon Grandmother has thirteen full moon circles on her back, representing the thirteen full moon names in the Cree lunar calendar. These names describe seasonal events like the sudden loud cracking sound that poplar trees make at 40 below zero, or the first frog singing in the spring which marks the Cree New Year, or the two major water bird migrations, spring and fall. About 60 percent of all years have 12 full moons within the earth’s full annual circle around the sun, ‘one earth’ as a year is called in Cree, while about 40 percent of all years have 13 full moons.
“The Full Moon Grandmother provides a visual backdrop for the Wolf Grandmother, whom we see playing her role, as described in a Cree second-time-around creation story, after the great flood, measuring Turtle Island by wandering around, occasionally stopping to sit and howl. The Wolf Grandmother’s howling provides a measurement system, using sound, for the legendary character, Wesakeychak, to measure Turtle Island. In the second creation story, Wesakeychak makes Turtle Island by blowing on a handful of mud brought up from the ocean floor by the humble little Muskrat, and the Wolf is Wesakeychak’s partner in spiritual adventures. On the Wolf Grandmother’s back we see a petroglyph of Turtle Island, and on her front we see a shadowy representation of the spiritual grandmother figure.
“Modernity has introduced patriarchy into Indigenous societies, and, of course, operates on a foundation of multiple systems of oppression, of which patriarchy is one. All female humans born into modernity, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or social standing, are subject to the effects of patriarchy, both subtle and overt. In Woman Rising Up we see an everywoman character in fetal curl, attempting to fully protecting herself from the crushing effects of patriarchy. Above the fetal curl form we see her unfolding, as the Bear Grandmother’s energetic input begins to take effect, and at the top, and in full figure at the back, we see her stretched upwards, at maximum reach, radiating the power that the Bear Grandmother has poured into her to link her to the earth, and which she now radiates back out into the universe.
“By re-engaging with the pre-colonial matri-focal social form, in a post-modern global renewal, we, collectively, men and women, Indigenous and non-indigenous, religious followers of the many various belief systems, including atheists, and all people who think that they may be different from one another because of skin, eye or hair colour, or because they may be rich or poor, or because they may have differing sexual orientations, or because of whatever may be imagined as an apartheid-inducing boundary, can be transcended.
“I believe that the key lies in our collective human relationship with our great mother, the earth. Modernity has separated us from her, and the bear spirit, met directly, personally, individually, in Indigenous ceremonial settings, can re-connect us to our primal mother. That is how we are all related.”