ACE’S OTTER AND FOX MOCCASIN WORK INSPIRED BY AQUATINT OF 19TH CENTURY SWISS ARTIST

Ace’s otter and fox moccasin work inspired by aquatint engraving of 19th century Swiss artist.

In 2006, Ace created a work entitled Reaction that was based on a style of footwear worn by southern plains tribes. This particular footwear incorporated hide fringe that emanated from the wearer’s heel designed to drag behind and erase or blur evidence of the wearer’s tracks. For Reaction, Ace reclaimed a pair of Kenneth Cole shoes, embellishing the vamps with electronic component floral work and replacing the hide fringe with a trailer of telephone wire referencing the contemporary erasure of the wearer’s cyber-tracks. Reaction was exhibited in the international touring exhibitions Changing Hands 3 – Art Without Reservations, Museum of Art and Design (NYC) in 2012 and Native Fashion Now – North American Native Style, Peabody Essex Museum in 2016.

In early 2013, while studying the work of 19th century Swiss artist Karl Bodmer (1809-1893), Ace was inspired by an aquatint engraving that depicted trail-duster moccasins of the northern plains and upper Missouri River. In 1832, Karl Bodmer was invited by Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, a German prince and explorer, to join an expedition up the Missouri River to document the flora, fauna and Indigenous tribes of the region. Like the expeditions of Lewis and Clark and George Catlin, Bodmer’s extensive documentation, in particular Indigenous tribes and material culture are considered some of the finest visual history of the time. Bodmer’s work was later published in “Travels in the Interior of North America” by Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied c.1839-43 (Paris, Coblenz and London). It was from this publication that Ace came across a beautifully rendered hand-coloured aquatint engraving of two Mandan warriors in full regalia, Sih-Chida (Yellow Feather) and Mahchsi-Karehde (Flying War Eagle)(1833). Ace also directly studied this particular aquatint at the North American Native Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, where a complete portfolio of aquatints are housed and rotated for exhibition in the permanent Bodmer Gallery.

In Bodmer’s aquatint, both warriors are depicted wearing ceremonial moccasins with fur dusters: Sih-Chida (Yellow Feather) is wearing porcupine quill or glass bead embellished otter pelt dusters, while Mahchsi-Karehde (Flying War Eagle) is wearing wolf fur and wolf tail dusters.

In 2014, Ace was gifted a vintage pair of Fluevog “Swordfish” boots that would become the basis for a direct contemporary response to the Bodmer depiction of the moccasins worn by Sih-Chida (Yellow Feather) in Nigik Makazinan (Otter Moccasins). Two years later in 2016, Ace responded to the second pair of moccasins worn by Mahchsi-Karehde (Flying War Eagle), choosing fox fur over wolf for aesthetic reasons in the work Fox Tail Moccasins. In 2017, the National Gallery of Canada acquired Nigik Makizinan (Otter Moccasins) (2014) for their permanent collection. The companion work, Fox Tail Moccasins (2016) are consigned to Kinsman Robinson Galleries in Toronto.