UN ABRAZO: A PAINTING AS A LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT​

Grasslands would like to acknowledge, with respect, that we are on the ancestral lands of the Cheyenne, Ute, Arapaho, and other native peoples. The land now known as Denver was and is a meaningful place for these Indigenous Nations, who used this land for hunting and gathering, farming and trading, healing and loving—before being forced away by white settlers in the 1850s and ’60s. 

Some of those white settlers were U.S. soldiers who in 1864 “surprised and murdered, in cold blood” at least 150 peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne people residing on a reservation 180 miles southeast of Denver. Because they were in peace talks with white officials at the time, the tribes “had every reason to believe that they were under [U.S.] protection,” according to a Congressional committee. But after what is now known as the Sand Creek Massacre—which counted mostly women, children and the elderly as casualties—these Nations were relocated entirely out of Colorado.

We offer this important education and serene respect in the form of a painting, Un Abrazo, to honor and give thanks to the original Indigenous stewards of this land—and their relatives, who continue to care for and defend all life that lives upon it. And we thank you for taking a moment to acknowledge those who came before you, both here in the Rocky Mountain West and also where you reside.

Grasslands

December 2020

UN
ABRAZO

A mural is a wall with a tongue, it speaks to one and all. It is a gift to the community.

Artist Carlos Fresquez

Un Abrazo: The Artist Statement

While painting this mural, many thoughts went through my heart and mind.

As I paint, being present and focusing, almost meditating on each vertical line and how each line is alike, but different, unique. Unique like people, the self, soul and spirit. 

As we move, walk about, we are vertical. A walk is a series of repeated movements. A walk in a straight line. Vertically we are awake, horizontally, we rest.

I thought about the viewer, who will see this and what may run through their minds. What might they think of, a serape, a blanket or see only a series of linear connected colors? Might they see it as a blanket that could metaphorically cover them, maybe as a wrapping presence?

As an artist and one who has studied and looked at many works of art, I am one who has a deep engagement with art history. I looked at the stripe in art history and the many artists who utilize the stripe in their works, like Gene Davis, the color field painter who saw and felt a repeated stripe as related to music. 

I questioned, how is this connecting to and how I can be sensitive to this architectural space. This site, distant past and current.

I looked at a multitude of historic Native American blankets. I wanted to give respect to the Indigenous peoples who were here first. Striving to embrace cultural references and to honor my Indigenous past along with painting a piece that speaks to the present as well as displays a future. Create a work of art that is respected by not only the native peoples but respected by all.

A mural is a wall with a tongue, it speaks to one and all. It is a gift to the community. 

I hope, as one walks in and sees the mural, that they are welcomed by the embrace of what this gift is being offered.

Carlos Fresquez

December 2020