Resources for Content
Irene Mitkus not only found the resources in Special Collections useful for images in her artist's book Sacred Trees, she looked to the collection for appropriate text as well. In a chapter from Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk tells the story of the origin of the cottonwood tree. A village of men, women, and children were sick and dying when Black Elk visited them in his vision. He is given a stick and told to have the people rise up and follow him to a place where he plants the stick in the ground. The stick is transformed into the cottonwood tree and the health of the people in their new village is restored. This information may have influenced Mitkus's selection of the tree as sacred. Black Elk's words appear here and in other sections of her book as companion text to her illustrations.
Another resource has an even more intriguing connection to Mitkus's book. Frenchman François André Michaux published North American Sylva in 1857. This text reveals that the European Ash was believed to have special powers. Michaux reports ancient lore that a mixture of ground roots or leaves and milk were an "antidote for the poison of reptiles." I suspect that Mitkus found this fact intriguing and it influenced her choice of a quote from Norse mythology that was included with the illustration of the Ash: "More snakes lie beneath the Ash Yggdrasil than an old fool thinks."
In a similar fashion, Steve Krueger drew on information from texts about saints to inform the content that appears with each of the emblems for the selected saints. Krueger lists no less than eleven books on saints and emblems in his resource list. The content for the reliquaries was influenced in a different way. Krueger wanted to expand the impact of the little book that presented the saints through illustration and text. He was inspired by finding clothing that related to several of his saints, and from there began a search for additional items of clothing. This led to the title of the complex work-Holy Raiment. For the reliquary presentation, Krueger obtained large bell jars. He added brass plates to the bases, identifying the saint.
As mentioned earlier in this essay, Ney Tait Fraser used the words of Black Elk and the illustrations of Standing Bear to inform the images on the surfaces of her tiles. However, it seems appropriate to return to the use of Black Elk Speaks for the general content of her sculpture-the four corners of the world. This concept is presented and developed throughout the text, and had a strong impact on Fraser's choice of content for her work.
In a similar way, Kyoung Ae Cho revealed that the wood used in her work was from one section of a tree. Yet it was meant to represent all of nature. In the Encyclopedia of American Wood, several species are represented. Yet, as Cho pointed out, it is only a small sliver of each species that is used to represent the whole. This idea of reduction is certainly a common element in Cho's work and, it would appear, the idea of reduction in her source text was not lost on her.
In the last section, the images were not appropriated directly from the resources, but rather served as models for the presentation of the work of art.