Over 400 years ago, the course of history changed when English colonists set out across the Atlantic bound for the “New World.” But for the Wampanoag people, this land was old, storied and contained everything they had ever known. At the Fuller Craft Museum, 10 artists were brought together to explore the depth and history of this event with its “Another Crossing: Artists Revisit the Mayflower Voyage” exhibition, on view through October 10.
For artists Annette Bellamy, Sonya Clark, David Clarke, Michelle Erickson, Jeffery Gibson, Jonathan James-Perry, Jasleen Kaur, Christien Meindertsma, Katie Schwab and Allison Smith, this was no simple task.
“The implications of the Mayflower crossing are so far-reaching that they are difficult to comprehend,” said Glenn Adamson, exhibition curator. “The voyage is both a national origin story and, given the widespread devastation of the Indigenous population that resulted, an event to mourn.”
As a result, “Another Crossing” is a nuanced and layered exhibition with each artist reflecting on their own relationship to the colonist’s arrival in Patuxet, the region now known as Plymouth.
James-Perry, who is Aquinnah Wampanoag, was “the projects historian, interlocutor, and conscience.” His piece, “Bear Witness,” greets visitors as they enter the Anne Abrams Stone Gallery.
“Bear Witness” is a mishoon — a dugout canoe hollowed using flames —that hangs above “Another Crossing.” The mishoon’s course is due East – back to Europe. It mirrors the Mayflower’s original journey, but instead of bringing travelers, it brings medicine intended to heal a sick society that was “so hurt that it felt the need to strip my ancestors of what belonged to them,” said James-Perry, in an accompanying statement.
Each item in “Another Crossing” can be viewed as a historical artifact, having been made with techniques and materials available to those living during the time of the Mayflower crossing. These works of art are imbued with meaning and symbolism — snapshots of 17th century experiences viewed through a lens that has four centuries of hindsight and history.
The works themselves stand on their own as examples of fine craftsmanship with intricate beadwork in Gibson’s “The Past as Future Artifact”; detailed carving in the boat forms of Annette Bellamy’s collaboration with six Indigenous artists; and inventive uses for lead and human hair in Sonya Clark’s “Power Tools: press / text / land / language,” 2020, and David Clarke’s “Poor Trait,” respectively.
“Another Crossing” is an exhibit best enjoyed in quiet contemplation. Visitors, if they are of European descent, will encounter a lot of cultural baggage that might be difficult to confront.
This exhibit plainly shows that this country was founded on the backs of others and “Another Crossing” asks visitors one question: “What is my ancestor’s role in this story, how has this patterned my existence, and how do I ensure a better future?”
(“Another Crossing: Artists Revisit the Mayflower Voyage” is on display until October 10 at the Fuller Craft Museum, 455 Oak Street Brockton, Massachusetts. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for Brockton residents with a recommended donation of $12 for all other guests. Visitors are asked to wear a face mask inside the museum. For more information, visit fullercraft.org or call (508) 588-6000.)