Artist Eve-Lauryn LaFountain
Artist Eve-Lauryn LaFountain
IN AWASISHKODE (Beyond the Fire), a performance piece at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, multimedia artist Eve-Lauryn Little Shell LaFountain stages an improvisational dialogue with musician Jon Almaraz. “A lot of what I do is starting with something simple like a photograph, then doing relatively simple techniques to it but then exposing the magic that can happen in a process,” she told Pasatiempo, “and I think of magic as happenstance or accidental things that end up being really beautiful and changing it completely and usually being something that you can’t repeat.”
LaFountain, who grew up in Santa Fe, was presented with a camera at age thirteen by her father, and she’s been hooked on film photography ever since. She went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she studied experimental film, photography, and Native American studies. In 2008, her Records of My People — which she developed as her senior project at Hampshire — won a Santa Fe Indian Market photography award endowed by gallerist Andrew Smith. Two years later, she was the first person to win the market’s Best of Classification award in photography. In the spring of 2014 she received a dual MFA from California Institute of the Arts in photography/media and film/video. She is currently a CalArts alumna artist-in-residence at the Los Angeles workspace collective Maker City LA.
In her work, the multimedia artist often explores landscape and cultural issues. For her 2006 piece The Wanderers in Wonderment, she presents a jerky screen popping with visual static. A pair of scissors enters the field by itself (via stop-motion animation)
It’s interesting to repurpose these images made by others and think of a collective memory of landscape and culture and art.
— Eve-Lauryn LaFountain
and cuts pieces from a square of cloth. A disembodied needle sews the cloth into a pouchlike form, then cotton fluffs stuff themselves into it. The soundtrack is pulsing with watery white noise, possibly a recording of a shore. Filmed natural scenes are accompanied by gentle music, and then a little cloth character enters, riding a little cloth horse. The music shifts to something resembling Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks to Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns, as the little figure rides through the woods and to the shore.
“He’s having a little adventure,” LaFountain said about the film, one of 11 on her website, www.littleshellstudios.com. “When I put those films up on that Vimeo page, it was like, Oh, wow, there are a lot of similarities. But when you’re working on them, it just seems like every project is so radically different from the one before. This idea is super new and fresh, then you think, No, it’s exactly like that thing I did ten years ago.”
The woods and lake scenes in The Wanderers in Wonderment and other films point to the landscape
of her Chippewa — or, more properly, Anishinaabe — heritage. “Chippewa is the Anglicized version of it,” she said. “Officially what’s on our tribal roster is Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, but we refer to ourselves as Ojibwe people and Anishinaabe really just means people, like the people of the land. It’s a more general term. Anishinaabe is also another word for the northern lakes tribes.”
Another of her moving-image works is In the Ghost Land (2010), featuring images of what looks like a ghost town and music that references both the Indian ancestry of her father, Chippewa sculptor Bruce LaFountain, and her mother MarLyn LaFountain’s Jewish heritage. The 2013 film Smudge Series features music by Almaraz. “We work together a lot. He’s in Los Angeles also. He has a music project called Bulbs and he’s been a great influence on me. The first piece we did together was Elderberry, Black Walnut, Oak, which was a dual-screen 16mm film that I made on a pinhole motion-picture camera.”
While some filmmakers may attach a handmade pinhole lens to a regular 16mm camera, LaFountain built the whole camera. “This is something I’ve been doing for a number of years and it’s not simple. You have to make sure you don’t get just a streak of light. The film does have to pause.” The hand-cranked film lends a somewhat choppy feeling to the resulting movie. “That’s kind of the magic of it, because it’s always something different. It’s really very abstract. It’s hard to see images in a lot of it. And I hand-process the film, too, so that adds another layer.”
For the Awasishkode performance, LaFountain expands on her MoCNA exhibition Waabanishimo (She Dances Till Daylight). “That’s a solo show of photographs, and then in another part of the gallery I’ll have films playing on TV monitors.” Awasishkode involves multiple projectors — showing both 35mm slides and motion-picture films — accompanied by Almaraz’s sound transformed by means of analog and digital manipulations. “Our ways of working are really similar. He starts from the guitar, then he puts it through all these different pedals that he’s programmed to make specific sounds. Seeing him perform is really interesting because you see him playing guitar, but the sounds don’t sound anything like a guitar. That’s what I like doing with imagemaking, starting with something very basic and analog and pushing it to the extreme.”
This will be their second live performance. The first one was in February at the Echo Park Film Center, where LaFountain is a co-op member, teaching 16mm film classes and curating screenings.
The performance description for Awasishkode says the light from the projectors “is interrupted with different materials, which ‘explode’ the images beyond the screen.” LaFountain explained that parts of the projected images are reflected around the room as she wields a variety of glass filters and mirrors and other reflective materials. The imagery is from footage she shot last year in Santa Fe and still photos from found slides. “About two years ago, I found an amazing collection of slides of Monument Valley from the ’60s and they’re gorgeous, so I think I’ll use some of those in the performance. It’s interesting to repurpose these images made by others and think of a collective memory of landscape and culture and art.”
From left to right, a capture from Eve-Lauryn LaFountain’s Ghost Woman projection piece; a moment from her Shell Sky, a layered 35mm slide projection; below, musician Jon Almaraz; bottom, LaFountain, photo MarLyn LaFountain
Opposite page, LaFountain and Almaraz in Giizis
Mooka’am (Sun/Moon Rise), performing at a Los Angeles gallery in June