Hatter & the Hare
Brestovačka Banja, SRB (2019)
In 2018, I was asked if I wanted to paint in Bor, Serbia for their festival, Lost & Found Bor. I was busy with another project and couldn't make it, but kept in touch with the organizers and put something in the works for the summer of 2019. Their given theme was "Native Americans", which initially struck me as odd, as I doubt most Serbs have ever seen a Native American, much less can get a full grasp on their ideals or how to represent them through urban art. Beside being for a festival, I spent the next few months reading into the subject and worked to find a respectable way to depict the main figures while also conveying a meaning that I felt connected the two distant cultures.

What I ended upon was a photo from the Library of Congress of two men, named Two Moons and Am Horse, taken by Charles Milton Bell some time between 1873 and 1916 during a trip to Washington D.C. I chose this photo for my inspiration for a few reasons. First, it tied the old world prior to the boom of the 20th century with a push to modernize. The suits and hats were a great representation of that while the expressions of the men were strong and proud, with their hair long and partially braided, and the one man having a pin on his jacket that I can only assume held some relation to their tribe/heritage. At any rate, it was a sobering image depicting those men meeting an oncoming culture with a composure that demanded and deserved respect. I felt that, although the people of Serbia's countryside may not know or have experience with the native North American cultures firsthand, they can definitely grasp the struggle between tradition and modernization. Holding on to culture versus embracing modern lifestyles. The area of Bor is home to the largest copper mine in Serbia and the struggle to keep the area beautiful and green while still supporting the industry which provides regional economic opportunities is evident. The music festival itself, while in theory promoting some awareness and a push for a merge with nature, is ultimately destructive and disruptive of the area, and in order to move forth with the painting, I had to make a personal compromise in that regard.

After finding the photo (seen here), I wanted to find another way to pay my respects to the men without using their faces for what would ultimately be a mural on the wall of a festival. I ended up reading several books on Native American mythology/symbolism and various animal totems, and concluded by choosing a moose and rabbit. The moose for its strength, endurance, and survival abilities, and the rabbit for it's kind of... realistic ideal. It's timid, yet can be feral. Has cleverness, but also fear. The best embodiment of such a complex and serious subject matter that I hoped would bring to light something more than a simple pretty image on a wall. As a play on words, I called the piece, "Hatter & the Hare".
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