PVDFest 2020 Public Artist – Allison Newsome and Deborah Spears Moorehead
“I am dedicated to the pursuit of sustainability, with utility at the core of my sculpture. As a young artist I was considered a non-functional ceramic artist and now I am considered a functional sculptor. Where I used to focus entirely upon sculpture that described environmental impact , I am now creating sculptures that are utilities whose impact is in the act of capturing rainwater. My new rain harvesting sculptures store water for urban farm and landscape use. It is important to me that the work is visually stunning as well as functional. I have come to realize that humans, including myself, are controlled by their need for visual beauty to the extreme of choosing to live in environments with unsustainable systems that ultimately threaten our existence.”
“Earth has a fever and we must bring down her rising temperature. I am driven to create utilities that are seamlessly perceived as art and dedicated to solutions for restoring people and our planet that are affordable. I want to help the Earth to heal with unabashed beautifully designed passive utility/sculpture. 2020 brings urgency to a renaissance that must take place. We have entered a time where art and design must form a new rotation. With RainKeep ‘Bee Violet’, once again, I will be collaborating with Anne Meyer’s lab at Rochester University by incorporating their groundbreaking man made nacre ‘Mother of Pearl’ and with Pokanoket Wampanoag artist Deborah Spears Moorehead for the creation of a ‘Three Sisters’ garden and rain chain design.”
Allison received her MFA in ceramics at RISD in 1983 and is in the collection of numerous museums to name a few, the RISD Museum, Beatrice Wood Museum, Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile Museum of Art. Recently Newsome was Artist in Residence at the Boston MFA with the Della Robbia exhibition. Her studio is in Warren RI.
Deborah Spears Moorehead is a Seaconke Pokanoket Wampanoag artist, advocate,
educator, consultant, writer, playwright, illustrator, historian, singer/songwriter and storyteller. She holds a Masters of Arts in Cultural Sustainability (Goucher College 2013), and a Bachelors of Fine Art, (Swain School of Design, 1981, with a major in Painting and a minor in Sculpture). Spears Moorehead owns and operates an art studio where she teaches private lessons. Her work focuses on the contemporary cultural existence of Eastern Woodland Natives who live in a traditional way. “My art, songs, stories, performances and literary works serve to assert, promote, value and validate the identity of the past, present and future generations of Eastern woodland Native American Tribal Nations.”
“Bee Violet” Location: Empire Plaza, 444 Westminster Street,
Access point: Green Street
For years Newsome has dedicated her work to Biomimicry, the study of nature to resolve problems for people and the planet. Her ‘RainKeeps’ are sculptures that harvest rainwater for landscape use. ‘Bee Violet’, commissioned for PVDFest 2020 will collect rainwater and dew throughout the summer. The sculpture uses an upper canopy with leaf shapes and rain chains that direct water into a vessel with a holding capacity for 500 gallons of rainwater. The rainwater collected will be used to water the ‘Three Sisters’ garden, which is an inter-planting of corn, squash and beans that thrive together, using a traditional agricultural method of the indigenous Native Americans. Newsome partnered with Seaconke Pokanoket Wampanoag artist Deborah Spears Moorehead on the brass charm designs, inspired and informed by their contemplation of a ‘Three Sisters’ garden.
‘Bee Violet’ comes from the term used in how bees have the ability to see ultraviolet light patterns on flowers to help bees navigate when they forage.
Allison Newsome partnered with Wampanoag artist Deborah Spears Moorehead to develop the concept for Bee Violet. Though Allison was familiar with the three sisters garden concept previously, working with Deborah offered a deepening understanding of this creation story. Deborah Spears Moorehead’s drawings (seen below) depict the story of Sky Woman who upon landing on the earth gave birth to the three sisters; corn, beans and squash. Moorehead’s drawings were then hammered into aluminum by Newsome, who traveled to Thailand to do so under a master repousse artist. Bee Violet has touched communities around the world while deeply rooted right here in Wampanoag land.
This artistic partnership evolved into a deepening understanding of colonial history in Providence and reparative interaction. Deborah Spears Moorehead provided instructions as to how to traditionally fertilize the soil in preparation for the planting of the three sisters. This lead to a serendipitous meeting with a friend of Allison, who is a direct descendant of Roger Williams, and who offered to accompany them to harvest fish to prepare the garden’s soil.
Deborah Spears Moorehead will offer a Blessing Ceremony at the work’s unveiling (tbd). The Three Sisters garden will be watered using the rain collected in the adjacent sculpture which honors Sky Woman. The garden is mulched with reeds from water marshes as it is done traditionally, and also serves as a reminder that a great salt cove once thrived in the area of today’s Empire Plaza.