Ariz. - Juanita Hull-Carlson has done more than her fair share in
leaving a permanent handprint on the landscape of Arizona. A master
sculptor and art teacher, Carlson has led Arizona students both
on and off the reservation in the creation of large, often functional,
art projects, most of which have carried strong messages.
who is funded through the Arizona Commission on the Arts, has returned
to the STAR School to complete a project begun six years earlier
- the creation of cement and found object mosaics to cover the walls
of a three-tiered amphitheater.
through Carlson's portfolio, one cannot help but notice that much
of the driving force behind her art is a strong environmental theme.
is my reason for being," Carlson said with a charismatic grin. "It's
my mission to save the world from the humans."
met Dr. Mark Sorensen and his wife, Kate, at a "radical art event
in the desert," and the co-founders of the STAR School were impressed
enough to bring Carlson to the school for her initial visit.
fall, thanks to the grant, Carlson returned to complete the work,
the scope of which Sorensen feels is better developed thanks to
who directs the STAR School, said that he first conceived the project
during one of the customary Monday morning gatherings in the school
amphitheater. The gathering welcomes all of the students and staff
back to the school for another week of work and provides a forum
for announcements, entertainment and other activities.
visualize this gathering as an exercise in kinship," Sorensen said.
"I thought that if we are going to practice kinship - something
we utilize here at STAR and have found that this approach makes
for less bullying and more friendliness among our kids and staff-a
project like this would be valuable. We want our kids to have a
strong sense of their clans and the interrelatedness, but also the
stories behind the clans."
students were asked to research their clans with their families
and come back with their story. The kids also had access to books
in the schools Native American Literature Library collection.
course there was no way to put all of the clans into this project,"
Sorensen said. "The clans are broken down into nine major clan families,
with one clan identified as the root clan."
students are also contributing to the project, Sorensen continued,
explaining that each child has pressed their handprints into cement
forms to be added to the bench project.
their presence," Sorensen explained. "There is this idea that the
art the kids produce about clans can be a welcoming presence in
art form also allows students to release tension and negative energy.
love to smash stuff," Carlson said. "This is a concept present in
some world religions, the idea of creation paired with destruction.
There is no space in our society for destruction; the breaking of
the glass and tiles for this work provides that."
who earned her Master's Degree in clay after 10 years of teaching,
said that her movement to cement was her husband's idea.
love clay, I do," Carlson said. "It is elemental. Humans have dug
in the earth and fired pottery in the ground for thousands of years.
That's what attracted me to clay. But I got frustrated.
clay, there are just too many chances for failure, especially in
teaching situations," Carlson said.
still remembers her first failure with clay.
was in high school," Carlson said. "The pot next to mine blew up
in the firing and the pieces attached to my pot. My pot didn't break,
but I had to file the pieces off and it left a bald spot [in the
glazing]. I was angry and sad."
said she had reached a point where she was attempting bigger and
bigger pieces, and suffering failure after failure - her husband
looked at her after one such failure and said, "Why don't you try
is immediate; it doesn't take the energy to fire. You can work bigger
and stay outside all year round," Carlson explained.
through her portfolio, Carlson displays several "art cars," where
actual running vehicles are decorated by artists-Carlson's philosophy
of reduce, reuse and recycle made the concept a natural canvas for
her work. One old car was decorated on-site at an Earth Day celebration
in Prescott and raffled off as a fundraiser for Tsunami victims.
about the success of the effort, Carlson laughed delightedly.
was a terrible idea," Carlson said. "We didn't make very much money
even though it seemed like a good idea. Art cars are not a commodity
... people know about; a luxury people don't even know exists."
second art car was sold to a 75-year-old man who lives in Carlson's
community. The gentleman stopped to look at a minivan that Carlson
had sold earlier that day, and she offered the art car, suggesting
he take it for a test drive, even though there were 220,000 miles
on it and it needed work.
he got back, he announced that he would take it," Carlson said.
"He told me that when he was driving it, people would wave and smile
at him, and he loved that."
about her desire to work with children, Carlson admitted that she
and her husband were childless by choice.
an artist, I don't make a big pile of money," Carlson said. "Children
are expensive. Through my work I can get my kid fix. I can play
with them and leave. They never follow me home; I don't have to
clean up after them. I love it," she concluded.
The STAR School is a charter elementary school located 30 miles
East of Flagstaff, Arizona. The school serves students in pre-school
through grade 8 who live in the Southwest corner of the Navajo Nation
and the surrounding rural area.