The Language Vest 2008
Polychrome Canvas and Mixed Media
61.0 X 44.0 cm.
The Language Vest is artistic commentary on qualities and character of leadership that all peoples recognize and expect. It is the fourth in a series of vests works on leadership, health and personal healing.
The first two vest works: The Vest (2007) and Personal Body Armour (2008) are actual bullet proof vests, more commonly referred to as body armour. The third vest work: The Healing Vest, an artistic construction, further elaborates the protection theme by introducing an interpretation of the phase “skin seven layers thick”. This phrase is used in Iroquoian culture to describe the toughness, resilience and ‘thick skinned’ determination you need to faces the rigours of leadership.
The Language Vest builds on and refines everything presented in The Healing Vest. The major difference, besides a few design details, is the use of indigenous languages to provide greater context to English words used as titles for fourteen different panels (layers of skin), seven in front and seven on the back.
The Language Vest uses exactly the same words as were used on The Healing Vest. On the chest panels we see: LOVE, VISION, GENEROSITY, FAITH, FAMILY, DREAMS and FRIENDSHIP. On the back panels we see: RESPECTFUL, HONEST, RESPONSIBLE, COURAGEOUS, CONSIDERATE, OBJECTIVE and TRUTHFUL.
The words have been translated into: Gitksan, Cree, Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga and Mi’mgaq to help emphasize requisites of good leadership are universal. “Skin seven layers thick” protects the wearer from harshness and vindictiveness and reaffirms the healing powers of strong character and unselfish purpose.
The Medicine Wheel palette (red, yellow, black and white) is common to all four vest works. These colours represent the Four Directions and Four Races of Peoples. Although the Medicine Wheel is not part of traditional teachings in every nation or tribe of Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island (North America) – it is respected and held in high regard by all.
The Language Vest and its companion vest works are an acknowledgement of issues and conflicts that test the character of those who take up the challenges of leadership. Regardless of language, we all have words that describe admirable traits and qualities we want our leaders to possess.
David M. General