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Sarah Sense

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Sarah Sense

Native American, b. 1980
California State University (BA); Parsons: The New School for Design (MFA)

A recent participant in the Asheville Art Museum’s Home Land exhibition, artist, curator, project director, and educator Sarah Sense weaves digital photographs to create montages combining different locations that share common stories. Sense often cites her Chitimacha grandfather from Louisiana and her Choctaw grandmother as influences on her work. The artist engages in archival projects to uncover lost ancestral designs and utilizes journal entries and personal documents as additional material within her photo weavings. Additionally, Sense has traveled the world to study indigenous weavers and their traditions, a journey which resulted in her 2012 book Weaving the Americas: A Search for Native Art in the Western Hemisphere. Sense received her B.A. in 2003 from California State University in Chico and graduated from Parsons: The New School for Design with an MFA in Studio Art in 2005. A former resident of Ireland, Sense makes a connection between the Irish people who died in the Doolough Tragedy of 1849 and the Removal of the Choctaw people in the United States in the 1830s. She writes about Choctaw Irish Relationship 2: “The large landscape in the background is of the Killary Fiord, in the Delphi Valley. The small image is from the series Weaving Water woven together with a Choctaw pattern from a basket that my Choctaw Grandmother gave to me a few years ago. When researching the Irish Famine and the Choctaw donation, I was learning about the stories by traveling around northwest Ireland and talking with people. The photographs in this series are of these travels and mostly of the
Connemara and County Mayo areas. On the day that I took these photos, we were traveling to the Delphi Lodge to learn about the Doolough Tragedy. The Doolough Tragedy story goes: there were several hundred people that walked from Louisburgh to the Delphi Lodge, which is about eleven miles away, so that they could request food vouchers from the British landlords. The landlords collected the rent from the Irish poor and were the only people who could help them with food during the potato famine. The potato was the only food that the Irish poor were allowed to eat, all other food was marked for export. When the potatoes were diseased in the 1840s, the Irish poor were left with nothing to eat. When the group arrived to Delphi, the landlords refused to open their gates and turned them away. Many died in their walk back to Louisburgh in a winter storm. I was drawn to the story as it reminded me of the Trail of Tears, and the displacement of the Choctaws. My husband and I drove to the Delphi Lodge to learn about the history. When we arrived we met with the manager and learned about the story and he shared with us information about the memorial walk that they do every spring. The manager, Michael is the first manager to open the gates to the people who participate in the walk, whereas in the past, the owners didn't want the negative publicity associated with the history of the Lodge. After talking with Michael about this for about an hour, we had a tour of the lodge and he offered my husband a job. We now live at the Delphi Lodge. It's a beautiful lodge in the mountains in the northwest coast of the Republic of Ireland and has been an incredible place to make the work for this series.” This particular work contains two subjects commonly found in Sense’s works: water and sun. Sense often records the position of the sun to garner a sense of place and relates water to her Chitimacha ancestors who were kidnapped from Louisiana and enslaved in the Caribbean. Her work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Chitimacha Museum, Tweed Museum of Art, and the Museo de Nacional Culturas Populares in Mexico.

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