GRANITE FALLS – Autumn Cavender Wilson began her artistic journey as a mother-to-be with a focus on her heritage and tradition, and now moves forward in a very modern and digital way.
Known by her Dakota name of Wicanhpi Iyotan Win, she is a midwife and cultural resource specialist in the Upper Sioux community.
Knowing the importance of surrounding new babies with cultural objects, she sought out mentors in her community to teach her how to prepare these objects, she wrote in an email to the West Central Tribune.
Her starting point was this: her cousins considered her a “hopeless case” when it came to art. By her own admission, she considered herself a “book nerd” with “no sense of design or aesthetics or much interest in art”.
How far she has gone — and where she will go — is what matters now to those who came to see the debut of her new exhibit on April 7 at the KK Berge Building in Granite Falls.
Trained as a traditional Dakota quill, Cavender Wilson told her audience that she’s begun an exploration of what she calls “digital generative quill work.”
She stood amid the colorful designs of her new works and explained their origins. She uses digital visualizations of audio data to visually encode songs and stories into larger patterns and designs.
She used the audio files from the birth of her second child to create one of the works she exhibited at KK Berge: “Hoksida Wan Tun-Sounds of Labor”.
She weaved together the audio of a traditional Dakota love song and a contemporary work by the Native band Redbone to create another: “Red-Boning: Come and Get Your Love.”
Another work, “Dakota Odowan 141”, is created from the audio recording of its relative, Unkan Chris Mato Nunpa. He sang the traditional Dakota tune that the missionaries had put into lyrics as the hymn “Dakota Odowan 141”. The song acknowledges the 38 Dakota men hanged in the largest mass execution in the United States on December 26, 1862.
Cavender Wilson said she began this artistic exploration with the help of her husband, Scott DeMuth. He helped provide computer and technical help.
One of his earliest works was based on a Dakota war song, A March to War. She could see the ordered track marks of the song in the visual representation of the audio file.
Cavender Wilson said that experimental works may only exist in digital space but, all the same, represent empirical truths. We may not physically hold these truths, but they continue to exist whether we have access to them or not, she explained.
She asked her audience, “How can we extract these things from these empirical spaces into physical representations that not only do them justice, but still communicate some of this deeper, underlying truth?”
His responses are on display at the KK Berge Building in downtown Granite Falls until May 7.
She will exhibit her work from May 12 to June 17 at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council Gallery, 114 North Third Street, Marshall. There will be a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 2.