An interdisciplinary, collaborative exhibition, Fantasia Colorado takes inspiration from an event that sounds too improbable to be true; it includes a double murder mystery, a ghost, and a rouge camel that terrorized the post-Civil War American West for almost a decade. Fantasia Colorado blurs fact and fiction by examining the boundaries where myths are born.
Raina Belleau and Caleb Churchill question how we remember events through the examination of the aftermath and the founding of the Camel Corps, an effort by Jefferson Davis in 1855 to employ camels in the United States Army. The story spun fantastical fictions across the region, but no rumor is more dazzling than the truth. This collaborative installation forces the viewer to question their acceptance of both the facts and fictions surrounding historical factual folklore.
Entering the gallery, the viewer will be presented with an over-sized camel sculpture alongside busts of the Camel Corps' founding fathers, handmade rugs, digital media and historical “memorabilia”. From the founding of the Camel Corp, to the ghostly camel’s humble death in the farmer’s garden, each work adds new details to the exhibition’s overarching narrative. The story of Fantasia Colorado is tragic and humorous, and this project aims to perpetuate the myth, clarify the history and to point to the moments when it is most difficult to untangle the two. The works themselves do not simply illustrate the story, but also add elements of complication.
History is often retold in ways that favor the narrator, just as every ghost story needs a monster. In researching the legend and the history, the artists have uncovered multiple versions of each. Presenting the story without bias, Belleau and Churchill ask the viewer to decipher the truth for themselves.
As native of Minnesota, my work has been influenced by the Midwestern landscape and wildlife and a cultural relationship to nature. My work engages linear and non-linear narrative, often using animal forms to create characters and symbols. Inspired by cinema, natural history and environmental issues, I create surreal scenes with an underlying dark sense of humor. These scenes are at times ideals and at others, dystopias. They convey my personal desires and anxieties surrounding the environment and it’s inhabitants. Through my sculptural work I explore nature’s influence on culture with an empathetic yet critical eye.
My precise and detailed sculptures are constructed from a wide variety of materials and techniques. I frequently use man-made materials to mimic those found in nature such as zip ties for porcupine quills or window blinds for feathers. This use of material speaks to our relationship with the natural world and draws attention to where and how the boundaries between the built, urban world and nature collide. I build quickly and freely, drawing in references through my characters and materials. I am drawn to small moments of realism where a detail of a large piece is hand rendered and painted to draw in the viewers’ attention. These moments create resting places in sometimes chaotic scenes. The sculptures become their own ecologies in which we can explore our place in the larger environment.
When we look at images we frame them with the pre-prescribed edges with which we have been taught to view them. We view things as singular, consider them and then look to what is happening outside the work itself. After these steps we feel we understand. In my work I seek to break apart the framework of traditional viewership. In combining object and image, covering and combining, I ask how we can bring new and personal experiences to how we see images.
My images and sculptures begin to delve into how we experience pictures. Some pieces work to block the viewer’s access to the entirety of an image while others are paired with objects to lend their meanings and physicality to the photograph. The use of color throughout the framed work gives it both a playfulness and disrupts the preciousness of a traditional framed image.
When I compose a series, I compose them much the way a poet might compose a sonnet using rhythm, pentameter, metaphor and couplings. In these recent two and three dimensional works, I am interested in creating haikus. Each piece is a distillation of components to suggest meaning, emotion and intention. This new form of photo poetics allows my viewer openings to interpret and explore by piecing each component into place for themselves.