A New Relative on the Ave: Van Wert Sculpture Unveiling
November 7, 2010
By Rhiana Yazzie
Driving down Franklin Avenue, you might notice at the corner of 15th Avenue a new relative greeting you. The Three Sisters might be better known to the Native community — Corn, Squash and Beans that when grown together complement and replenish the soil in which they are grown — but The Fourth Sister is a new sculpture created by Red Lake Ojibwe artist, Gordon Van Wert. An allusion to the Ojibwe westward migration story after European encroachment, Van Wert said at the sculpture unveiling on October 22, 2010, that when the Ojibwe found their Fourth Sister, wild rice, they knew they had arrived in their new homeland.
Gordon Van Wert was first introduced to stone sculpting at a boarding school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which later became known as the Institute of American Indian Arts. Some 40 years later, Gordon has made a name for himself with art exhibitions around the globe, including another sculpture at the Chanhassen Arboretum also taking on the subject of The Fourth Sister.
Assembled on the sidewalk, a crowd of Native community members and friends erupted with laughter when Van Wert explained that this sculpture was one way he could give back something positive to “the Avenue” to make up for “some of the things I’ve seen —and done down here!” referring to the days before Franklin Avenue began its community rebirth. Northland Native Products, a Native-owned business on Franklin Avenue, donated 20 bags of wild rice as raffle prizes to the crowd and a drum group helped punctuate the lively occasion.
The Fourth Sister that sits at the southeast corner of the soon to open All My Relations Gallery is made of limestone with a quartz crystal inlay standing 12 feet high atop a metal base with a plaque framed by the words “American Indian Cultural Corridor.”
Van Wert hopes that “this will influence some of the younger people if they want to be an artist.” In trademark Native fashion he continued to joke that “You don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer or an Indian Chief, you can be an artist! ... It’s worth it.”