Installations: 29 Palms Art Gallery and Joshua Tree National Park, 29 Palms, California.
April-May 2016 (gallery) and ongoing (national park) part of Sand to Stone
Words written by Lewis deSoto
Vocalizations by Erin Neff
Illustrations by Vincent Desjardins
An Installation in two parts:
At the 29 Palms Art Gallery is a room with a bench that plays a “radio play” that uses voice/music created by Erin Neff, ambient sound of the wind through the palms at the Oasis of Mara, story read by Emily Clarke (Cahuilla) and the words written by Lewis deSoto.
The second part consists of metal plaques with illustrations created by Vincent Desjardins installed at the Joshua Tree Visitors Center in 29 Palms, CA about 1/2 mile away in the Oasis of Mara. Voice/music created by Erin Neff is broadcast from the visitor’s center into the oasis.
In 1909 the “Willie Boy Manhunt,” portrayed in news media of the time as the story of a drunken murder of a young girl’s father, a kidnapping, the abuse and murder of a young girl as well as attacks against a posse that tried to hunt the man down. Newspapers connected the man to the “Ghost Dance” phenomena which was described as an armed insurrection by Indians to start a holy war against whites. The so-called murder started in Banning, in Riverside County. At the time, President Howard Taft was to come visit the Mission Inn in Riverside. Media speculated that Indians may murder Taft or at least stage some violence. The Willy Boy murder was linked to a vast conspiracy (President William McKinley, eight years earlier had been shot and killed by an anarchist), even though the fatality was another Indian. The death of Carlota during the hunt was described as a wanton murder and sexual assault. “Willy Boy” took his own life in the Ruby Mountains because he was surrounded by a posse.
“Willy Boy’s” legendary skills as a runner were well known. The role of Carlota was always described as being a victim. She was helpless and hapless. Some research has shown that Carlota and Will (as the artist calls them) were in love and that the murder of the father was likely an accident. The death of Carlota is in fact attributed to a distant rifle shot by a posse member. Will took his own life because of the announcement of the death of his beloved, not because he was trapped with nowhere to go. It was clear in the aftermath that he could have easily run from the posse.
This version is to counter the anti-Indian media of the time and the rather male-centric versions of the story in novel and motion picture form.
Exhibition created for Sand to Stone project that incorporates work from other artists: Gerald R. Clarke (Cahuilla) and Cara Romero (Chemehuevi). http://www.sandtostone.org/artist-lewis-desoto.htm
Work on the site of the Oasis of Mara included vocalizations by Erin Neff and audio recitation by Emily Clarke. Sample audio file: