Five Canoes was created through a collaboration between Michael B. Platt, visual artist/image-maker, and his wife, the poet Carol A. Beane.
Platt originally created Five Canoes as a pigment print, using Photoshop to digitally enrich its multiple layers. For the background landscape layers, Platt used his photographs of the area surrounding the monolith the Aboriginal peoples call Uluru in central Australia, a sacred site of myths and stories. The predominant vegetation there includes desert oaks, silvery shrubs, and sparse grasses on the red dirt, while extensive root systems hold soil in place—an ecosystem that offers survival and sustenance for those possessing knowledge of its possibilities.
The model’s image began with a studio photoshoot, bodies painted with white theatrical make-up, then photographed in various poses. Models become figures, relocated and contextualized in the melding of layers.
Platt used to say: "you try all the possibilities, everything on the Photoshop menu, and you don’t stop until the magic happens...."
Places, the history they hold, and the stories they contain, were always significant elements of Platt’s thematic visual inventory. Australia provided him with new material for his explorations. Five Canoes establishes a sense of space/place, referencing the First Peoples with the figure. Images of the canoes—a museum source—elicit considerations of migration, relocation, and displacement.
The poem speaks in another more intimate voice of the land, its histories, rememberings, and knowledge—survival. It also implicitly references the abuses perpetrated on Indigenous peoples; injustices, until recently, omitted from the national narratives and minimized within the national history. A quiet voice urges acknowledgment of the ignorance and action to break the silence.
—From Brandywine Workshop and Archives records
Michael B. Platt was a photographer, printmaker, and scholar born in Washington, DC. He earned a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design, OH; an MFA from Howard University, Washington, DC; and pursued postgraduate studies at George Washing...Read More ⟶