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Upper Sioux Community artist explores melding of audio and visual in 'Wiwicakekage: To Make Reality'

Autumn Cavender Wilson began her art journey as an expectant mother focused on her heritage and tradition. Trained in traditional Dakota quillwork, she is now creating exploratory art she calls generative quillwork.

Autumn Cavender Wilson
Wicanhpi Iyotan Win (Autumn Cavender Wilson) spoke about her exploratory digital generative quillwork exhibit titled Wiwicakekage or "To Make Reality" or "To Make Truth" on April 7, 2022, at the K.K. Berge Building in Granite Falls.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

GRANITE FALLS — Autumn Cavender Wilson began her artistic journey as an expectant mother with a focus on her heritage and tradition, and is now moving forward in a very modern, digital way.

Known by her Dakota name of Wicanhpi Iyotan Win, she is a midwife and cultural resource specialist in the Upper Sioux Community.

Knowing the importance of surrounding new babies with cultural items, she sought out mentors in her community to teach her how to prepare these items, she wrote in an email to the West Central Tribune.

Her beginning point was this: Her cousins considered her a “hopeless case” when it came to art. By her own admission, she considered herself a “book nerd” with “no sense of design or aesthetics or much interest in art.”

How far she has come — and where she will go — is what matters now to those who came to view the debut of her new exhibit April 7 at the K.K. Berge Building in Granite Falls.

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Autumn Cavender Wilson's digitized work "Genesis" is projected on buffalo hide at the K.K. Berge Gallery on April 7, 2022.
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"Ohutkan: Genesis," by Autumn Cavender Wilson This image was generated from the data of the Bitcoin Genesis block and soundwaves files of Dakota thunder and seed planting songs. The work explores cycles of rebirth and renewal, food and wealth caches, and the ancestral and digital traditions of seed keeping as wealth preservation.
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This quillwork was generated from the "Strong Women's Song," composed and sung by Indigenous women at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario. The song was used to support one another, particularly those in solitary confinement.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune
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"“Red-Boning: Come and Get Your Love," by Autumn Cavender Wilson Cavender Wilson wove together audio of a traditional Dakota love song and contemporary work by the Native band Redbone to create this digital work on display at the K.K. Berge Gallery in Granite Falls. The exhibit will next be shown at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council Gallery in Marshall from May 12 through June 17.
Contributed

Trained as a traditional Dakota quillworker, Cavender Wilson told her audience that she has begun an exploration of what she calls “digital generative quillwork.”

She stood amidst the colorful designs of her new works and explained their origins. She uses digital visualizations of audio data to visually encode songs and stories into larger patterns and designs.

She used the audio files from the birth of her second child to create one of the works she has displayed at the K.K. Berge: “Hoksida Wan Tun-Sounds of Labor.”

She wove together audio of a traditional Dakota love song and contemporary work by the Native band Redbone to create another: “Red-Boning: Come and Get Your Love.”

Another work, "Dakota Odowan 141," is created from the audio recording of her relative, Unkan Chris Mato Nunpa. He sang the traditional Dakota melody that missionaries had put words to as the hymn "Dakota Odowan 141." The song recognizes the 38 Dakota men hanged in the largest mass execution in the United States on Dec. 26, 1862.

Cavender Wilson said she began this art exploration with the help of her husband, Scott DeMuth. He helped provide computer and technical help.

One of her first works was based on a Dakota war song, a march to war. She could see the orderly track marks of the song in the visual depiction of the audio file.

Cavender Wilson said the experimental works may exist only in digital space but, all the same, represent empirical truths. We may not be able to hold these truths in a physical way, but they continue to exist whether or not we have access to them, she explained.

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She asked her audience: “How do we pull these things out of these empirical spaces into physical representations that not only do them justice, but still communicate some of that deeper, underlying truth?”

Her answers are on exhibit at the K.K. Berge Building in downtown Granite Falls through May 7.

She will exhibit her works May 12 through June 17 at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council Gallery, 114 North Third Street, Marshall. There will be a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 2.

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Wicanhpi Iyotan Win (Autumn Cavender Wilson) began her art journey as an expectant mother focused on her heritage and tradition. She is now experimenting with what she described as generative quillwork at the opening of her exhibit at the K.K. Berge in Granite Falls on April 7, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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