Key West is known for its plethora of signs. What if in our “sign pollution,” one particular sign could actually draw our attention and for a few seconds, change our perspective about life in Key West? Internationally renowned artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap Of Birds will be installing his art around Key West in conjunction with an upcoming The Studios of Key West symposium from Thursday to Saturday, March 3-5. Edgar Heap of Birds will be erecting four, eye-catching signs that will be posted at West Martello, the Lighthouse, the Hemingway House and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
The focus of Edgar Heap of Birds’ art, as well as the symposium, is the relationship of art and the environment. How can art be used to affect change concerning our imprint of the environment? Edgar’s art will look like normal metal, street signs with block lettering on a white background. But the message of the signs will serve as a reminder of our history with the Native Americans in the Florida Keys.
Edgar Heap of Birds describes these as “tribal panels” and “native hosts.” He said native hosts are public art installations that honor indigenous citizens and remind the public of the tribal lands and history. They each will say “ADIROLF – Today your host is Calusa (Matecumbe, Tequesta and Cuchiyaga).” He has reversed the state (FLORIDA) in order to capture the viewer’s attention, but also to invoke the idea of the other side of Florida, or the time when the land belonged solely to indigenous people.
“You want to puncture a society, so they wonder what’s going on. Cause the emotion of being perplexed, and then wonder about the tribal identity you are walking over,” Edgar said.
His Key West tribal panels reference: Calusa, Matecumbe, Tequesta, and Cuchiyaga. Four familiar Native American words from South Florida. During the 16th century, these tribes and places were written and memorialized by the Spanish explorers discovering Florida. The Calusa and Tequesta Tribes are known from Okeechobee down through the Keys. While the term Matecumbe refers both to a tribe as well as the Matecumbe region of the Keys. Cuchiyaga was a name specifically given to the Keys’ island with deer, most likely the area around Big Pine.
Edgar Heap of Birds will be in the Keys to remind residents and visitors of the region’s history, to stop and look both ways. He joins a variety of other distinguished artists at the Currents & Confluences Symposium at The Studios of Key West. In partnership with The Arts Students league of New York, the conference will take place Thursday to Saturday, March 3-5. For schedule and tickets go to TSKW.org or call 305-296-0458.