Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Wal-Mart Archaeological Site LaPena Memorial Placed
Even a youthful vandal who was caught in the act of bending and breaking off portions of a bronze statue’s headdress couldn’t stop the healing of Mother Earth that took place Saturday, June 20, at the southeast corner of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Anderson.
“We know there was once a village here where this shopping center now stands. This was a flat plain and there was a spring up on the hill,” said James Hayward, Sr., cultural resources manager for Redding Rancheria, a federally recognized tribal council that represents the Wintu, Yana and Pit River people who long ago were once the sole residents of the Upper Sacremento Valley now known as Shasta County.
Redding Rancheria tribal elders were unaware, however, until nearly halfway through the excavation and foundation building process of the Wal-Mart store that the area in south Anderson was once a burial ground and should have been protected from commercial development, Hayward said.
Rather than halt construction, however, Redding Rancheria reached a mitigation agreement with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., which resulted in Saturday’s dedication of a Wintu people memorial, dedicated by Hayward and other representatives.
The memorial is a stunning 8-foot tall Wintu feather dancer caught in mid-step by Sacramento sculptor Frank Towendolly LaPena, 71.
“My family members lived on the rez, so when I was teaching at Shasta College and heard that the tribe was looking for a Native American artist to design and build the monument, I told them that I really wanted to be considered,” said LaPena, who received his liberal arts degree from Chico State University with a major in art.
LaPena works primarily with lithographs, wood block printing, paintings and some pencil and ink sketches, although he has done other sculptures in ceramics and wood.
Using historical photographs from the turn of the 20th century, LaPena created a series of sketches that he then turned into a three-dimensional artwork in non-hardening clay built on a balsam foundation.
With help from more than two dozen experts and assistants at the Art Foundry and Gallery in Sacramento, LaPena quickly turned his small sculpture into a larger-than-lifesize full-scale version of the statue that would be cut up and used to create casts that would, in turn be used to create a wax version of the same piece.