State of Wonder features Garrick Imatani's collaborative project, Witness

July 30, 2019

On the most recent State of Wonder on OPB, host April Baer features artist and PNCA Foundation Chair Garrick Imatani and Witness, a project he made in collaboration with the Confederates Tribes of Grand Ronde that centers on the Tomanowos meteorite.

Baer reports that while Tomanowos had been a culturally significant object to the Clackamas for hundreds of years, white settlers removed it from the land, and eventually it ended up at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, thousands of miles away.

"As an Asian American artist, Imatani was reticent about telling a story so far from his own cultural experience. But he made a request of the tribe to proceed and, after some conversations with Stewart and others at Chachalu, Imatani struck a partnership with the tribes. Accompanying tribal youth on their annual trip to New York to visit Tomanowos, Imatani and the students developed a 3D profile detailed enough to create a model for casting. Hours of research in tribal archives led him to historic photos of Tomanowos in transit at the hands of settlers, sparking ideas that became foundational to Imatani’s project.

"For his commission, Imatani chose to cast a replica of Tomanowos in aluminum, suspended from the ceiling of Straub Hall’s atrium against the backdrop of a vivid mural he created. It’s based on a hydrology map of the Willamette River Valley as it would have appeared during the Missoula Floods. The installation was flanked with photos Imatani created with the help of Stewart, the tribes’ cultural adviser Bobby Mercier and others, as quiet rejoinders to the historic photos of Tomanowos swaddled in American flags, as a prop or a bauble for well-to-do Oregonians."

“Witness” is on view at the Chachalu Museum at Grand Ronde through September.