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Lee Lee & Thatcher Gray

“Home”

 

Statement

The way the box arrived to us here in Maine was circuitous. It was made in Maine, shipped west, then shipped back to Maine in a mobilities intense transaction. It is made primarily of pine, whose cone is the state flower of Maine. We are living in Mulatamicuwon or ‘the place where water flows and sticks to the sand’ now known as Blue Hill Falls, Maine. We have only been here for a few years, so have not grown deep enough roots to consider it ‘home’, but it is certainly a lovely place to be during a pandemic. Our current residence is in the homeland of the Penobscot, who spent summers on the peninsula. Part of the Wabanaki family of tribes in what is known as Dawnland, Penobscot were the most decimated communities of the area as European settlers reaped the rich resources of this land. Our direct ancestor established the first trading post in Maine, arriving from the Plymouth colony. Our house is located in close proximity to the first settler landing spot here in Blue Hill, constructed by a ship builder in 1835. We frequently think of the settler relationships with Penobscot. European colonists ended up severing Maine’s landscape of the great White Pine. They used the straight but flexible trunks for ship masts. The lumber first built the ships then was carried off to build plantations through the Caribbean, laying in place colonial structures of systemized racism that persist today. Africans were severed from their homes to serve in Caribbean plantations constructed from material that was severed from the landscape in Maine. Penobscot people, so closely interwoven with the land, suffered tremendous loss due to the severance physically from the landscape as the landscape was stripped of its’ forests.

We burned the box, then placed a nest inside. While the bird was resourceful with the available materials, it made us sad to think of the synthetic material that made up this home for birds and reminds us that modern human construction of homes often consists of chemically laden, synthetic material. Within the nest are a pair of pine eggs, painted by Thatcher Gray, along with a marble egg. It reminded us of the birds who lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, then flies off to sap the resources from the unwillingly adopted parents. We photographed it in a Hawthorn tree, which was the other species decimated from the landscape. The trees were harvested for their long thorns, which were used as nails in ship construction. These nails wouldn’t rot in the salt heavy air like iron nails did. While we were burning the box, Carol Dana, who was visiting from Indian Island, made the comment that the burning reminded her of the mega-fires out west. The fires that sent out a smoky haze that we could see even here in Maine. Her comment tossed me back to the west, the area we do consider HOME.

Materials: burned pine box, nest, pine eggs, paint, marble egg, Hawthorn tree

NFS

 

Artist Bio

Spanning decades, the themes explored in my work weave visual arts practices into community-based frameworks of eco-cultural preservation and wild land restoration. When my son, Thatcher Gray was born, I became obsessed with how we grow and consume food, which led to a deep understanding of the ecologic impacts of a mobilities-centered culture and how the paths of contemporary mobilities were formed during colonialism. Specific to our geography, we are currently exploring ties between Acadia and Haiti, contextualized in colonial history. Thatcher Gray has participated in the full gamut of art making, from contributing marks directly into paintings to engaging in social practice based works that explored the impacts of chemical and plastic pollution through engagements that took place across the seven seas. He appreciates the Slow Food philosophy of celebratory activism around a shared table and we share an enthusiasm to create work that focuses on restoration. We are looking forward to a residency at the Green Olive Arts in Morocco to explore the foundations of the acequia practice maintained in northern New Mexico, and presenting together at the 5th International Ecolinguistics conference hosted by the University of Liverpool next spring.

www.Lee-Lee.com & www.virtualvoices.org for collaborative works