Italwas: Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

41” x 48”Align Center

In 2006 I was commissioned to paint a historically accurate painting of a Creek Indian village. In researching the subject I found that much of Creek cultural artifacts have been lost, due to the shameful Trail of Tears. With a lot of help from Miriam Fowler (who put together the life-size Creek village at the Birmingham Museum of Art) I gathered the information I needed and found images of Creek patterns in rather obscure places. I delivered the painting nine months after the piece was commissioned, and felt like I lived in the little village I’d painted.

Because of my familiarity with the Creek culture, it was a natural choice of subject for one of my depictions of Alabama places. I knew immediately that my portrayal would include the Creeks’ wonderful patterns, which I only got to use on a small scale in the village painting. I chose Horseshoe Bend as the place to represent the Creek culture because it is the most accessible site designated to observance of Creek culture in the state.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park commemorates the end of the Creek Indian War, when, in 1814, General Andrew Jackson defeated 1,000 Upper Creeks led by Chief Menawa. The battle took place on the lands around and between a sharp bend in the Tallapoosa River in central Alabama. After the war, Creek lands that covered three-fifths of Alabama were added to the United States and opened to white settlers, and the Indians were sent on the Trail of Tears to reservations in Oklahoma. My painting is meant to commemorate the Creeks and their culture.

I chose Creek patterns taken from their beadwork, pipes, clay vessels, and blankets. My intention was not to translate Creek symbolism inherent in the patterns. I took actual patterns from artifacts found in the Southeast, and put them together in my signature style, with more concern for depicting a kaleidoscope of visual harmony than for conceptual symbolic accuracy. I fear I may have stated something goofy in Creek language, but hopefully nothing too offensive.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is maintained by the National Park Service, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. For more information, go to www.nps.gov.

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