Santa Fe artist Jamison Chas Banks’ Unsettled Landscapes project, Retour des Cendres (Return of the Ashes) Vol. 1, references the history of his own Cherokee and Seneca-Cayuga heritage as well as that of French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). “It’s really a personal narrative about the region where I come from. I grew up in Kansas but my ancestors were exiled to Oklahoma,” Banks said. “What I’m talking about is the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon was actually the one who sold the territory to the United States. His final campaigns were financed through that deal. Oddly enough, Napoleon started the whole process for us to be exiled. If the land hadn’t been opened up, it couldn’t have been utilized. It’s a cause-and-effect kind of thing.”
The project comprises found objects, historic photographs, and a replica of a scoreboard from the 1960s television program Home Run Derby, which pitted baseball greats against each other in home-run competitions. Banks’ scoreboard, however, rearranges the words as “Run Home Derby,” a reference to the tragic experience of Native Americans and boarding schools. “A lot of children would run home to escape from the brutality and actually perish from exposure.” Banks included the scoreboard because it also alludes to his family history. “It pays allegiance to the masculine history of my family and what they had to deal with and overcome. After people were exiled to Oklahoma, the children were, most of the time, taken to boarding schools. My grandparents were indoctrinated into that. But through the negativity, there was one positive aspect, and that was baseball. My grandfather played baseball, and he actually made a living playing semipro baseball for about a decade. He told us that he grew up in the same town as Mickey Mantle. He said they actually played stickball during the Depression.” In the center top of the scoreboard is a map of the United States showing the geographic extent of the Louisiana Purchase. The numbers on the scoreboard indicate that the game, played between Purchasers and Exiles, is still in progress, with innings to go. “The numbers are a low score, but I wanted them to be significant to the history of the United States. The Purchasers are the Louisiana Purchasers, the people who have come here. The Exiles are the people who were sent away.”
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