Traffic Box Art Project- Ancestral Steering 2020
In March 2020, I learned that I was one of 6 other artists chosen to design art for Boise's Department of Art & History Traffic Box Art Project. I was eager to start working on this project. We had just entered quarantine when I met virtually with our contact person, Catina who explained all of the details of the project and the contract.
Our home is 2.5 miles away from this traffic box and I frequently run a loop that goes right by the corner of the traffic box. Our neighborhood library branch is across the street and our favorite pub Sockeye had a location nearby too, but sadly moved out a year before; so, I have experienced this place during several mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights. When I found out this was the location of my traffic box I knew I wanted to reference the cardinal directions.
Here are some progress pictures that I was not able to show during the process.
I decided to use acrylic to take advantage of the bright colors, in particular neons and inorganic earth tones like quinacridone red-orange. I did struggle with the size of the canvas and the fact that each section of the traffic box sat side by side. This frustrated my eyes and brain that wanted consistency and unity over the entire canvas.
Here is the Artist Statement I submitted with the final design.
Ancestral Steering is based on the cardinal directions. The main Yalateca figure wears a traditional headdress and tunic. She faces west with a golden eagle in her arms and a young deer looking up at the viewer. She intermingles with patterns resembling flowers, textiles, and a faded mural.
The colors white, jade, and copper are significant western hues, while black signifies north, blue-south and red-east. Strictly adhering to the colors, symbols, and elements of each direction was not my goal, instead the symbolism sparked the imagery. Layering acrylic on white canvas allowed the colors to shine brightly and not be muted by an undertone.
Archeology and myth, when blended with modern forms of painting, results in something akin to Magical Realism. The woman, for example, holds a golden eagle close to her body with her eyes closed, a gesture seen as both contemplative of the bird’s power, and at the same time melancholic for the imminent release of the bird’s powerful wings. Her closed eyes could also simply reflect the brightness of the white flower. Similarly, the jaguar, an animal associated with the north and death, looks up hopeful and bright indicating that death does not always equate with finality. Death, to many, can easily be translated as a kind of rebirth.
Painting serves my sense of identity. I am a hybrid of two cultures: I’m Mexican-American, which gives me so many opportunities I would not have otherwise, but with the price of not owning a true understanding of my history.
Here are some photos I took right after I noticed it was installed.