Just Words

This project pays tribute to the Native Americans (American Indians). The namesake, "Just Words", is a play on the "White man's" broken promises, and the words seen as a part of the art reflect Tom R. Chambers' emotional states or reactions to the mistreatment and near annihilation of the indigenous population by his ancestors. He hopes to begin to find closure for his haunted existence with this attempt as a political statement through the Arts.

The images of the Native Americans are from the Edward Curtis Collection at the Library of Congress, which are now a part of the public domain. Of his own photographs Curtis said, "Rather than being designed for mere embellishment, they are illustrations of the Indian character or of some vital phase of existence." Chambers hopes that Curtis also had similar emotional states as he got caught up in The North American Indian Project to depict "all features of Indian life and environment - the young and the old, with their habitations, industries, ceremonies, games, and everyday customs."

Chambers considers "The North American Indian Project" heavy irony - the last nails driven into the coffin of a culture that was pushed aside and in some cases done away with. In his opinion, it was an attempt by the "White man" - involving prominent figures at the time such as J. Pierpont Morgan (Curtis's financier), Frederick Webb Hodge (one of the period's leading authorities on Native Americans), and even President Theodore Roosevelt (wrote a foreword in which he praised Curtis' powers of observation) - to gloss over the demise of the great overlords of the North American continent, and showcase the remnants of a broken society.

The exhibition prints are up to 30"X20".

Sings in the Mountains [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 54.

Big Head [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 91.

Head Carry [Edward Curtis, c1900], Library of Congress no. 92.

Ox Sue [Edward Curtis, c1903], Library of Congress no. 27.

Chideh, Apache [Edward Curtis, c1903], Library of Congress no. 33.

Heavy Shield [Edward Curtis, c1900], Library of Congress no. 24.

Three Horses [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 96.

Sitting Eagle [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 56.

Cha Cah Tana [Edward Curtis, c1903], Library of Congress no. 26.

Pio Pio, Maksmaks, Wallawalla [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 59.

Ben Long Ear [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 90.

Black Hair [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 57.

Gennetoa, Apache [Edward Curtis, c1904], Library of Congress no. 12.

Chino [Edward Curtis, c1903], Library of Congress no. 38.

Yo Shona [Edward Curtis, c1903], Library of Congress no. 30.

Weasel Tail, Piegan [Edward Curtis, c1900], Library of Congress no. 25.

Wife of Ow High [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 88.

Cheyenne girl [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 63.

Que Que Tas [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 64.

Tah It Way [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 93.

Chief Garfield, Jicarilla [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 48.

Mis Se Pah [Edward Curtis, c1903], Library of Congress no. 43.

Curley, Apsaroke [Edward Curtis, c1905], Library of Congress no. 52.

Review by JD Jarvis, Art Critic/Artist and coauthor of "Going Digital: The Practice and Vision of Digital Artists" (ISBN 1-59200-918-2):

"JUST WORDS - elegant in its straightforwardness, the work cuts directly to the matter. If, words are meaningless until they describe something that is happening to us, personally; then what becomes of being 'a man of his word' or taking someone 'at their word'? Words are 'actions' and therefore subject to the unfolding of Karma. As we struggle today, in varying degrees, from the results of so many broken words from people we entrusted with a world-wide economy the horror and anguish that rained down on Native Americans stands as a monument and a reminder of just how much harder it can get when 'honor', 'trust' and 'mercy' (to name only a very few) become just words. It happened to 'them' - it can happen to 'us'."


Click on poster image to view/download full version (20"X30", 300dpi) for printing: