Karen McCoy with Matthew Dehaemers and members of the Shawnee and Peoria Nations, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Wood River, Illinois, 2004, corn, 1500 pounds of frozen Mississippi River water, uprooted corn stalks. Canoe - 12' L x 18" W x 12" H, stalks - 14' L x 4' W x 8" H
This sculpture honors the American Indians who made their homes in and around the region of southern Illinois two hundred years ago, and before. While Epicenter was conceived and designed as a reflection on research and experiences visiting the Shawnee and Peoria, other tribes such as the Cahokia, Delaware, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Mascoutin, Metchigamea, Miami, Piankashaw, Tamaroa and Wea, also lived in this region in historic times.
Southern Illinois, with its many river systems and natural abundance was, in prehistory, the center of a vast civilization. Euro-centered historical thinking tends to consider the movement associated with this area as being east to west, but our continent's first inhabitants consider this locale an epicenter. It has always been a nucleus from which culture has emanated, a place with urban centers, extensive trade networks and immense, complex earthworks. Rivers may be considered connecting arteries within this landscape. Mississippi River water, frozen in a mold the shape of a dugout canoe, 12' long, slowly melted during the Lewis and Clark Signature Event at Wood River, Illinois. As it melted, the canoe deposited its cargo of corn in a mound atop uprooted corn stalks. The uprooted corn stalks refer of the continual upheaval of tribal families as they were pushed out of their homelands along the Mississippi River in the 1700's and 1800's. The diminishing presence of the canoe may be likened to contemporary cultural misconceptions concerning American Indians. In reality many tribes have survived and are today experiencing a cultural renewal. The corn kernels are metaphors of growth, vitality and sustenance. Traditional native societies continue to regard corn as a sacred gift. The sculpture has been created to emphasize remembering the past in order to create a better future. It contains a gesture of support and hope for the increasing vitality of the culture and language of the Shawnee, Peoria and other Native American nations. With the metaphor of growth, it poses the possibility of establishing better relationships among all peoples and between human beings and the natural environment we all share.
Created for the National Bicentennial Commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery This project was sponsored by the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial ArtsPlan, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in collaboration with the Missouri Arts Council. The program is administered by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the New England Foundation for the Arts. Karen McCoy, Lead Artist and Matthew Dehaemers, Regional Artist, Lewis and Clark ArtsCorps for the greater metropolitan St. Louis region. Special thanks to the three Shawnee Tribes and the Peoria tribe, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Hartford, IL, the Madison County Illinois Arts Council, Cynthia Buenger/Videographer, Alton, IL, Polarville Cold Storage, East Saint Louis, IL, Sun Belt Rentals, Granite City, IL, Marcal Rope and Rigging, Alton, IL, Country Town, Godfrey, IL, Broadway Truck and Van, St. Louis, MO, Operating Engineers Local 520, Granite City, IL, School of Art, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, Red Latina, St. Louis, MO, The Illinois Louis and Clark Bicentennial Commission and the Lewis and Clark Community College, Godfrey, IL.