How the West was Won (A Re-education) comes from Jonah Meyer, artist/sculptor turned furniture maker who has for the past ten years primarily shown through Sawkille Co., a solid wood, shaker style furniture company Meyer co-owns with his wife Tara DeLisio in upstate NY. The show, which opens October 6th, comprises of furniture pieces, sculptures, wall hangings, drawings, and for the first time in Meyer’s career, prints. Across all of these mediums, Meyer begins by cutting cartoonish shapes out of reclaimed wood using a bandsaw. These pieces in the shape of circles, raindrops, trees, sunsets, figures, tools, and symbols of the American west are variably used to adorn bureau cabinets, compose narrative wall hangings, and become woodblocks for relief prints. Together the works are hung in a saloon-style installation in Sawkille’s Rhinebeck showroom alongside select pieces from the company’s typical furniture line.
The cover images for the show, a silhouette of Abe Lincoln and a bureau featuring cut wood adornments whose imagery draws from a wild west cartoon (guns, skulls, flags), are not the only pieces in Meyer’s recent body of work that employs imagery of the tools of violence, colonization, and oppression wielded against indigenous people in the United States for the past four centuries, though not all are as opaque. Agricultural tools, settlements, cut logs – all of these images center in the works reflecting on Meyer’s self- re-education about U.S. transgressions against Native Americans, upon which he embarked during protests at Standing Rock last year. From Jamestown to Wounded Knee to contemporary recognition rights, Meyer has spent his nights ferociously reading anything he can to overcome the historical amnesia of land theft and genocide upon which our country is built and within which he grew up in rural Pennsylvania taking shots at soda cans to practice aim. Meyer’s subtitle, A Re-education, refers to his own grappling and coming to terms with the atrocities committed by white men to “win” the west and the country writ large.
Half of the proceeds from prints sold will be donated to Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund, a legal fund that supports indigenous activists facing charges from non-violent acts of resistance against the DAPL pipeline.
The following selection of books is a beginning resource for Native American studies past and present. We encourage those with other recommendations to add their titles to this list.
The Earth is Weeping by Peter Cozzens
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt
Neither Wolf Nor Dog and The Girl Who Sings to Buffaloes by Kent Nerburn
Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie
Son of the Morning Star by Evan Connell
In the Absence of the Sacred by Jerry Mander
Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Recognition, Sovereignty Struggles, and Indigenous Rights in the United States by Amy Den Ouden and Jean O’Brien