A visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, located downtown in New York City at Bowling Green, to see an exhibition organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts: “T.C. Cannon At the Edge of America.”

View Transcript

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO NYC ARTS.

I AM Philip Di MONTEBELLO IN THE STUDIOS AT LINCOLN CENTER.

ON OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT, WE VISIT THE SMITHSONIAN'S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN, LOCATED DOWNTOWN IN NEW YORK CITY.

AND BOWLING GREEN.

THE MUSEUM IS COMMITTED TO ADVANCING KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATIVE CULTURES OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE.

PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.

CURRENTLY ON VIEW IS THE FINAL STOP ON THE TOUR OF AN EXHIBITION ORGANIZED BY THE ESSEX MUSEUM IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS.

IT IS CALLED TC CANNON.

THE EDGE OF AMERICA.

TC CANNON'S LIFE WAS BRIEF.

HE DIED IN 1978 AT THE AGE OF ONLY 31.

BUT AS REFLECTED BY THE NEARLY 80 WORKS ON VIEW, HIS WIDE- RANGING ARTISTRY CAPTURED THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF HIS LIFETIME.

IT WAS BOLD AND COLORFUL WORK.

IT EXPLORES COLORFUL HISTORY ON POP CULTURE THROUGH HIS NATIVE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.

TC CANNON'S WORK CONTINUES TO ENGAGE ISSUES AS RELEVANT TODAY AS 50 YEARS AGO.

> THOMAS WAYNE CANNON, OR TC CANNON WAS BORN IN 1946 IN SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA TO A FAMILY OF FARMERS. AND WHEN HE WAS QUITE YOUNG, DURING THE 1950s, HIS FATHER SERVED IN THE KOREAN WAR.

TC'S MOTHER WAS CATO. AND HIS FATHER WAS KIOWA INDIA.

WE WILL SEE BOTH HIS FATHER SURFACE AND AS FAR AS HIS IDENTITY AS A KIOWA WARRIOR, DEEPLY INFLUENCED TC'S LATER WORKS.

TC CANNON LOVED MUSIC.

AND AFTER RETURNING FROM THE VIETNAM WAR, HE PURCHASED IN 1940 CF MARTIN ACOUSTIC GUITAR, AND HE WAS KNOWN FOR HAVING JAM SESSIONS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT IN HIS ART STUDIO IN NEW MEXICO.

BUT ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF TC'S PLAYLIST ARE HIS OWN SOUNDTRACKS, WHEN WE GET TO HEAR HIS LATE-NIGHT JAM SESSIONS IN HIS ART STUDIO.

TODAY IS OCTOBER 11, 1967.

IT IS ABOUT 3 AM, AND TOMMY CANNON AND HIS GUITAR AND HARMONICA ARE IN THE MOOD.

TC LOVED BOB DYLAN, BUFFY SAINTE MARIE, MERLE HAGGARD, AND ALSO THE BEATLES.

BUT HE ALSO HAD A DEEP LOVE OF OPERA AS WELL.

AND HIS MUSIC DEEPLY INFLUENCES IMAGES, AND HIS IMAGES DEEPLY INFLUENCED HIS MUSIC.

IN HIS PAINTING, MAMA AND PAPA GOT THE GOING HOME SHE BOB BLUES, WE START TO SEE KEY FORMAL QUALITIES OF TC'S WORK BEGIN TO EMERGE.

FOR INSTANCE, HIS BOLD COLOR AND PATTERNS.

HIS LIVELY BRUSHWORK, AND ALSO HIS RICH COMBINATIONS OF NATIVE AND NON-NATIVE AESTHETIC ELEMENTS.

THE PAINTING CENTERS ON TWO FIGURES.

A NAVAJO OR IN A MAN AND WOMAN, WHO ARE DEALING WITH ISSUES OF HOMESICKNESS OR THEIR LONGING TO GO HOME.

WHICH BECOMES A THEME THROUGHOUT TC'S WORK. IN HIS 1973 ACRYLIC AND OIL PAINTING, TO JOT GUNS --. TC PORTRAYS A U.S. MILITARY INDIAN SCOUT, WHO IS A PLAINS INDIAN CULTURE, WHICH WE CAN SEE IN HIS ACCOUTREMENT ON, WHICH ARE VERY SPECIFIC TO PLAINS CULTURE.

ALSO, WE START TO SEE TC'S MATURE WORK REALLY DEVELOPING QUITE STRONGLY HERE.

IN ONE OF MY FAVORITE PAINTINGS OF TC CANNONS, CLOUD MADONNA FROM 1975, WHICH IS AN ACRYLIC PAINTING, IT IS A NATIVE TAKE ON THE MADONNA OR THE VIRGIN MARY.

BUT IT IS MORE THAN THAT.

TC DIRECTLY REFERENCES PUEBLO AESTHETIC CULTURAL ELEMENTS.

AND ALSO, PUEBLO CEREMONIAL ELEMENTS.

SPECIFICALLY, WATER.

WHICH WE CAN SEE IN THE MADONNA'S MANTLE, DRAPING DOWN HER SHOULDERS. ALSO, SHE IS HOLDING A MELON INSTEAD OF A BABY, WHICH ALSO REFERENCES LIFE RENEWAL AND AGAIN, WATER.

AND INSTEAD OF A HALO AROUND TC'S MADONNA, HE HAS PLACED A WATER JAR.

ATOP HER HEAD.

THE WATER JAR ITSELF IS NOT ONLY A REFERENCE TO PUEBLO CULTURE AND POTTERY, BUT ALSO, TO THE PUEBLO REVERENCE FOR WATER.

WHICH IS A LIFE-GIVING FORCE.

IN THE ARID DESERT.

> IN 1967, TCN LISTED IN THE U.S. MILITARY, AND SERVED AS A PARATROOPER IN VIETNAM.

IN VIETNAM, TC PARTICIPATED IN WHAT WAS CALLED THE TET OFFENSIVE, WHICH WAS ONE OF THE LARGEST MILITARY CAMPAIGNS OF THE VIETNAM WAR.

IN HIS IMAGES OF WAR, AND OF WARRIORS, WE CAN SEE THAT TC IS STRUGGLING WITH HIS OWN INNER TENSION OF SERVING A GOVERNMENT THAT HEAVILY OPPRESSED AMERICAN INDIANS THROUGH VIOLENCE, FORCED RELOCATION, AND OTHER MEANS.

THIS EXHIBITION INCLUDES AN ENTIRE SPACE DEDICATED TO TC'S SERVICE IN THE VIETNAM WAR.

WE HAVE FEATURED MANY OF HIS MEDALS, HIS PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE, AND ALSO, POEMS ABOUT HIS FEELINGS OF BEING SO FAR AWAY FROM HOME.

DESPITE THE TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES HE FACED, TC ALSO HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT WHAT HE WAS EXPERIENCING IN THE WAR.

AND MANY OF HIS SELF-PORTRAITS INCLUDE HUMOROUS REFERENCES TO HIS EXPERIENCES IN VIETNAM.

TC OFTEN MIXED HIS POETRY ALONG WITH HIS TWO-DIMENSIONAL ART.

HE OFTEN HAS REFERENCES TO LOVE , TO WAR, OR TO TRAUMA.

TC DESCRIBED HIMSELF AS SOMEONE WHO HAD AN INABILITY TO FALL OUT OF LOVE.

I HAD TO WRITE A SONG BECAUSE I CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT HER.

[ SINGING ]

MANY OF HIS IMAGES DEPICT WOMEN DURING THEIR CHILDBEARING YEARS, INCLUDING THIS IMAGE, GRANDMOTHER GESTATING FATHER, WHICH DEPICTS HIS GRANDMOTHER, CARRYING HIS FATHER.

AFTER RETURNING FROM VIETNAM, TC'S WORK TAKES A TURN TOWARD THE DEEPLY SPIRITUAL, WHICH HE EXPRESSES IN IMAGES OF DANCES, AND CEREMONIES.

BOTH PUEBLO AND PLAINS INDIANS CEREMONY DANCERS ARE CONSIDERED PRAYERS.

AND TC INCLUDED MANY OF THESE SPECIFIC ELEMENTS IN HIS WORK.

FOLLOWING HIS TIME IN VIETNAM, TC HAD A SENSE OF URGENCY ABOUT PAINTING AND WRITING AND ALSO CREATING MUSIC.

WHICH IS IN RESPONSE TO A VISION THAT HE HAD THAT HE WAS GOING TO DIE AT A VERY YOUNG AGE.

IN 1978, TC CANNON DIED IN A FATAL CAR ACCIDENT OUTSIDE SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO.

TC CANNON, ALONG WITH A NUMBER OF HIS COLLEAGUES AT THE INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN INDIAN ART, WERE PART OF A GENERATION THAT SHOWED A NEW WAY FOR AMERICAN INDIANS TO PORTRAY THEMSELVES THROUGH ART, MUSIC, AND POETRY.

WERE PROUD TO HOST THIS FINAL STOP OF TC CANNONS AT THE EDGE OF AMERICA.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU SOON.

[ SINGING ]