Turtle Meets Sky – Adam Martin
September 2015 - December 2015
Turtle Meets the Sky
The Haudenosaunee origin story of Sky Woman falling to earth and landing on the back of a giant turtle has become well known throughout Indigenous communities across our continent. As the account goes, the turtle’s back became the landmass we know as North America, transforming a water-filled world into a place where humans could exist. The story of Sky Woman and Turtle’s journey continues to be told across Canada and the United States; the recounting of this event solidifying the Haudenosaunee peoples’ connection to this continent. Each retelling of this history identifies the physical and psychological adaptations required by those involved to transition and adapt into a new and unfamiliar environment. Sky Woman’s successful survival on earth is dependent on her ability to change the way she lives and interacts with her new landscape. Turtle’s actions to help Sky Woman also required a transformation from its physical and psychological self, changing and adapting to support Sky Woman and provide her and her descendants with a safe place to live and grow. Together Sky Woman and Turtle changed, found new ways, learned new things, and created another landscape in which to situate their self.
Turtle Meets the Sky is representative of adaptation to different landscapes and ways of seeing, in this case as Adam has experienced it moving from his home on the Six Nations of the Grand River (Turtle Clan), to the Rocky Mountains of Banff, and then to the northern plains in Regina where he currently resides. The social, political, and geographic landscapes of Ontario and southern Saskatchewan are significantly different and so, Adam has also adapted and changed with living on the prairies. His works “Sky Woman” and “Cosmos” are his Haudenosaunee heritage, presenting iconic imagery representative of their cosmology and epistemology. However, these paintings also contain elements that link to northern plains beliefs including stories of the Pleiades and Ursa Major constellations, emphasizing a deeper and more meaningful connection between Indigenous belief systems.
Adam also continues to develop and adapt as an artist. The use of varied techniques and mediums contribute to his exploration of materials and the effective depiction of intangible concepts in a visual format. Adam’s emphasis of cultural norms as shown in “Sky Woman” and “Heartbeat” are situated between abstraction and a more realistic depiction of the figure. To contrast this, his explorative mark making used to portray familial connections to the natural world results in an interesting contrast of imagery in “Uncle JD” and “Horse,” once again combining realism with abstract marks, some representative of the digital world we now live in. His paintings “Pow Wow 1 & 2” and “The Valley,” are a geographic study of the colors found on prairies filled with vast expanses of grasslands, bright sunshine, and big sky. This is his new environment as a painter and Haudenosaunee living in a northern plains geography.
The works in Turtle Meets the Sky represent change and adaptation of one’s self as we move between social, cultural and political spaces. Adam’s continued development as an artist will surely result in new ways of depicting and recording the experiences of Turtle meeting the sky.
– Audrey Dreaver