Juukan Tears

wip, February 2021

In May of 2020 mining company Rio Tinto destroyed the Juukan Shelters, containing sacred caves that had been in use by the traditional custodians of that part of (what we now call) Western Australia, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples, for over 46,000 years. The Shelters were in the remote Pilbara region of WA, and were located within the Brockman 4 mine, one among Rio Tinto’s 16 iron ore mines in the region. The PKKP had registered their objections to the extension of the mine into the area of the Juukan Shelters for several years, but owing to an outdated WA Government permit system that allows for no objections once a mining permit is issued, and an unequal and paternalistic mining rights negotiation process that effectively gags First Nation recipients of mining money, their cries went unheeded.

Since then the blast has received significant public outcry and media attention in Australia and been subject to a government inquiry, not least because recent archaeological excavations had found ancient human hair, proving continual human use of the shelters for 46,000 years.

Western Australia is home to Rio Tinto Iron Ore, and its capital, Perth, the city where I live, boasts the Rio Tinto office tower (also known as Central Park) as its tallest building. In a relatively small and topographically flat city it is visible from many kilometers away, including from my house – and my studio space – in North Perth.

My response to the shameful destruction of sacred sites and continued silencing of our First Nations people, (not to mention the over representation of environmental abusers like Rio Tinto in the skyline of Perth), is this work, with the working title Juukan Tears. It is a piece in two sections, the largest a wall hanging approximately 4m (13′) tall by 1.3m (4.3′) wide, the second section being a group 46 chains that are each approximately 1.8m long. It is made out of recycled custom orb, a common fencing and building material made from galvinised steel, which was previously the siding and roofing material of my back shed. (Image at this post.)

The first and larger part of the work contains a rendering of the Rio Tinto headquarters in Perth, with line-work “drawn” in different amalgamations of teardrop shapes. The second piece makes use of the 4,600 teardrop shapes, representing 10% of the 46,000 years of history lost when the Juukan Shelters were destroyed last May, to make chains of tears. Groups of 100 teardrops are joined to make 46 chains that will be hung next to the drawing, which combined makes approximately 80m (260′) of chain.

The drawing, or wall hanging, is itself also cut into 382 rectangular forms, to represent all of the holes drilled into the Juukan Shelters on the Brockman 4 mine site before the “Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Traditional Owners were made aware of the planned blast on May 15.” Within the background, using length and order of these 382 pieces, is depicted a message in a modified version of Morse Code. When decoded it reads: “46,000 year old Juukan shelters destroyed for…iron ore”

As mentioned previously, this work will debut at the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University for the Indian Ocean Triennial Australia – IOTA21 – in September 2021.

I am grateful to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries in Western Australia for their financial support of this project, and to the IOTA and John Curtin Gallery curatorial teams for their support of this work and my greater practice.

Do you like to watch?

before – the source of the steel for this project

If your answer to the above question is yes, come join me in my studio for the next six or so months. In this link (click on the Live Stream link – if it’s there, I’m in the studio) you can see live footage of me as I work on hand sawing a piece from a few 3m x 82cm sheets of custom orb steel.

I am now live-streaming on weekdays from my studio, as I work on my largest work to date, thanks to my partner and wildly overqualified technical assistant Bruce Cooper (previously credited here as TurboNerd), and my funding partner, the Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries in Western Australia. The finished work is destined for exhibition at the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University as a part of IOTA21: the first Indian Ocean Craft Triennial, opening September 2021.

So if you’re tired of all the usual options:
a/ you have no need of boiled water
b/ your grass is in hibernation
c/ you can’t possibly bear witness to any more paint drying…
come take a peek into my studio. And if you’re not in the mood now, don’t worry, this one will take some time (that’s kinda the point) so feel free to check in later.

Master Class Workshop – Liquid Enamel for Steel and Copper with visiting artist Melissa Cameron.

fuckthispresidentandtheregimeherodeinon 2017. Stainless steel, titanium, vitreous enamel

14 – 15 September 2019

In her practice Melissa Cameron has perfected the application of liquid enamel onto small objects. It’s a unique enamelling method, well suited to both flat and dimensional forms, with coating found objects like wire and tiny laser-cut parts being Melissa’s specialties.

In this workshop with the artist, learn her tips and tricks for using liquid enamel on steel and copper, from metal surface preparation to enamel mixing, application, and firing. Extend your decorative palette with textures and patterns using simple techniques, well suited for use on items of jewellery and small objects.

This masterclass is being held in conjunction with Melissa Cameron’s solo exhibition at Bilk Gallery opening on Friday the 13 September 2019, 6pm – 8pm.

Workshop details
Time: 9.30 am – 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 14 – 15 September.
Location: Workshop Bilk, 403 Captians Flat Road Carwoola Queanbeyan NSW Australia. Attendees will need to bring their own lunch. Coffee and tea will be provided.
Materials: All materials and tools will be supplied.
Cost: $450 per person for the two days. Maximum of six places available.

Exhibitions and events!

object 1, object 2. steel from a shipping container, vitreous enamel. 2018

1/ With Other Eyes:

See Contain, a brand new series of works I produced for this exhibition, the last works to come from my Seattle studio.

With Other Eyes

29 September – 18 November 2018

Stephen Bottomley, Melissa Cameron, Helen Carnac, David Gates, Beate Gegenwart, Kiko Gianocca, Margit Hart, Rebecca Hannon, Kirsten Haydon, Mari Ishikawa, Kaori Juzu, Fritz Maierhofer, Ruudt Peters, Ramon Puig Cuyàs, Isabell Schaupp, Bettina Speckner, Gabi Veit, Silvia Walz, Gudrun Wiesmann, Tamar De Vries Winter

Enamel and Photography


‘Photography has changed, expanded and even deluded our perceptions. It is a vessel of memory, yet also a corrective instrument thereof.

Ruthin Craft Centre
The Centre for the Applied Arts
Park Road, Ruthin
Denbighshire, Wales

2/ Symposium

Come join me at The Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium, presented by the Seattle Metals Guild:

This year’s dynamic speaker line-up includes European jewelry artist Terhi Tolvanen, metalsmith/sculptor David H. Clemons, jeweler/enamelist Deborah Lozier, and repoussé master Douglas Pryor; plus Ideation: From the Belly to the Brain, a panel discussion featuring artists Melissa CameronEva Funderburgh, and Gina Pankowski.

The Symposium will be in Seattle this year, rather than in Tacoma as originally planned. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we’ve had to make a last-minute change, so this year we will be at the Langston-Hughes Performing Arts Institute, with everything the Symposium has to offer: Silent Auction, Book Sale, and a fabulous line up of speakers and panelists, detailed above.

Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018
Location: Langston-Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Seattle, WA

It’s the day before I leave the USA permanently for Perth, Australia, so come say goodbye and join us at the after-party to end all after-parties!

3/ Uneasy Beauty

See my works Drone: Attempts to Kill… and RPG in this exhibition at The Fuller Craft Museum in MA, curated by Suzanne Ramljak the former editor of Metalsmith Magazine.

Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment will bring together 75 examples of contemporary jewelry and costume that demonstrate the immense power of adornment to impact us physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Showcasing wearable work in various media from regional and national artists, the exhibition will explore the outer limits of comfort through works that constrict body movement, irritate the skin, make extreme demands, or touch upon sensitive cultural nerves. Uneasy Beauty is part of the Mass Fashion collaborative, a consortium of eight cultural institutions that aim to explore and celebrate the many facets of the Bay State’s culture of fashion. This exhibition is curated by Suzanne Ramljak, an art historian, writer, curator, and former editor of Metalsmith magazine.

October 6, 2018 – April 21, 2019
Fuller Craft Museum
455 Oak Street
Brockton, MA 02301

Monday – Gun Day

1.1.2017

55 places. 62 incidents. 66 guns. 73 people

It’s take one month of drawing, drilling, sawing and slicing to make a portrait of each of the 66 guns used in fatal incidents on January 1st, 2017. These gun outlines are made in metal, plastic, fabric and paper, from containers sourced from the 55 places in which these acts of violence occurred.

Now we are seeking 73 people to wear the outlines, small and large, while we take an image to help tell the story.

Please come and stand in for the people we lost to these guns on that day.

Register here

More info here

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

Sign up here


A huge thanks to everyone who has already signed up for the photo shoot on the 7/7/18. I’m back to tell those of you who haven’t that I need a lot more volunteers to help create a truly arresting image. I’ve made a poster (above, link) with all the details that I’d love for you to print and display in your shared studio, office or other place where cool people hang out! (FYI – I’ve already papered Equinox and Pratt Studios, and a big thanks to the others who have obliged me by posting it in their shared studios.)

AND in exciting news – I’ve managed to secure the services of local film-director Miri Stone, who thankfully has a lot more experience at this than me! She’s going to keep us all on task and motivated, and help us make the best image possible.

As far as volunteers go, I have just over a quarter of the sign-ups that I’m seeking. If you’ve been meaning to sign up please do so here, I’d really appreciate it, and if you’re going to be out of town you can do me a huge favor by forwarding on this email to someone who has yet to receive it.

And to those of you curious about progress on the artwork – my deadline for receiving containers was last week, and I’m currently at 49 pieces totally completed for the shoot, with 4 more awaiting cleanup on bench this morning. The last of the containers are still coming in too, so I’m on schedule to finish by the end of this week. Phew 😉

Photo shoot details at-a-glance:
– 7/7/18
– Meet at the parking lot under the Fremont Bridge (not near the Troll – the one that opens 😉 )
– 8am-9am sign in
– 9am-12pm all 73 people in 73 different gun-shaped pendants stand together for the shoot (if we finish early we all go home early!)
– You wear something comfortable with dark top-half and no logos, I loan you a pendant to wear for the morning
– Drinks and snacks provided

This is going to be a fun and once in a lifetime experience, so please come join us!

Some more about the project here and especially the shoot here

Poster for print: VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

Can you help?

*** UPDATED June 20th***

containers from my collection

As I promised last week, I’m back in the US from Australia, where I was celebrating my 40th birthday with my family!

And now I’m here, I have a favor to ask:

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my series of posts, entitled: Monday – Gun Day, where I have been cataloguing the weapons used in each of the fatal shootings in the US on January 1st, 2017. (There’s more intel as to why in this post.) Thanks to the incredible resources of the Gun Violence Archive I’m almost through the research phase – in which I made drawings of all the guns used in fatal incidents on that day – and I’m ready to start making.

I was going to used objects – containers specifically – that I had to hand, but now that doesn’t feel right. I have objects from all over the place – I’ve picked them up in my travels throughout North America, Australia, Asia and Europe. And that is the problem. The rate of gun violence, as we are now almost constantly being reminded, is unique to each country. So using objects from other places in a project referencing gun violence in the USA doesn’t ring true.

So I suddenly find myself in need of containers from a specific list of places. Fifty-four places, in fact. And if you have a friend or relative in the area, please feel free to pass this along.

This is where you come in. If you happen to live in one of the places listed:

Send me a container to become a permanent part of this artwork, and I  will send you a limited edition jewellery piece in return.

I sense your next question: “Container, what kind of container?”

Practically anything accepted – well washed food tins, plastic milk containers or even a yogurt tub, I don’t mind. Upcycle or re-gift me, please! I love a thrift store find, or new things from grocery stores or markets – I seek and find all over. Wood too! I just need to be able to cut or saw-pierce a motif into it, so not too thick, but most materials accepted. (Preferably not stainless steel – the best way to check that tiny, cute but essentially useless colander you have is with a magnet. I love magnetic steels – I’ll cut them for days – but if it doesn’t stick it’s probably regular stainless.)

Map from the Gun Violence Archive – Interactive Map

I’m looking for a single container (though multiples needed in a few places) from each of the places listed below. Or, if you own a souvenir item from one of these places, that you are willing to part with, I would gladly accept it. (And yes, I do consider ashtrays, coasters and trays containers, too. See image at top for a portion of my current stash.)

Logistics:

1/ Get in touch – blog@melissacameron.net

  • Please be in contact before you send something, to make sure I have not yet received anything from your place. I only need one container from most of this list, and so I’ll work on a first-come, first served basis.
  • If you happen to have an item in mind, please email me a photo of the container I can used for planning. I will also add your object as ‘pending’ on my list for others to see.

2/ Send the item (to arrive by  June 20th, 2018)

    • to:

Melissa Cameron
2212 Queen Anne Ave. N. #412
Seattle WA 98109

  • Naturally, include the place name of the object in the packaging, as well as a name/address + email contact to ensure you get your jewel

3/ Jewels shipped in August

  • stay tuned to the blog for developments of this very special limited series.

*** List of places still remaining – June 20th update***  (and updated printable list of Places June 8 – this includes all the maybe’s – if you are in a place that I have only a maybe commitment, please get in touch!):

State City Or County
Alabama Birmingham
Georgia Allenhurst
Georgia Moultrie
Illinois Rockford
South Dakota Rapid City

Yes, it’s like a Kickstarter but instead of cash, it’s local objects being turned into jewels. A barter-kickstarter, if you will. Please pass this along, and lets come together and make some art!

 

Queries? Please email me: blog@melissacameron.net

Monday – Gun Day

No time for a deep dive today, so just a quick pair of guns:

Eighteen year old Kiara Tatum was killed when a man and a boy fired into a crowd standing outside in Memphis, TN, at about 8pm, from their vehicle. One report said that:

According to Memphis Police Department, 22-year-old Devante Robinson is accused of being one of two people inside a white car that fired shots at a crowd of people on Danville Circle. Kiara Tatum, 18, was killed in the shooting.

The other suspect was identified Tuesday as 17-year-old Jaylen Clayton.

Robinson is charged with first-degree murder, five counts of attempted first-degree murder, and using a gun during a felony.

An earlier report said that:

Clayton is charged with first-degree murder, five counts of attempted first-degree murder, and using a firearm during a felony.

Robinson was out on bond for reckless endangerment at the time, having been in another vehicle from which shots were fired (at children playing outside,) less than a week earlier. And as for Clayton, one of the latest articles I found said that the 17 year old was to be tried as an adult.

Between everything I read, a lot of weapons and ammunition were mentioned, but none named. Amazingly with two guns fired, and reportedly up to five other victims, Tatum was the only one found dead from a gunshot wound.  We’re up to DP 2 yet again, but I’ll add DP1 too, since the exact killer will probably go unidentified.

Default Pistol 2 – S&W M&P

Ruger SR1911 – Default Pistol 1

 

Monday – Gun Day

I went to the March For Our Lives in Seattle on Saturday. Here’s a few of the messages that I heard and saw:

A man, walking in arm with a woman, held a sign that read, ‘I never want to get another “We’re on lockdown” text from my wife again.’

A child carrying, ‘I don’t feel safe,’ another, ‘vote them out.’

A woman with a cane standing on the side of the street with a sign that read ‘respect for free’ saying loudly to the passersby: “Know you’re strong! Know you’re wonderful!”

A couple carrying a small child each, one of them also holding a sign, “NOT ONE MORE”.

An older woman with a sign ‘This is killing us’.

A pair of guys; ‘Guns are stupid’ and ‘The kids are all right’.

Two elementary-school aged boys, vigorously yelling “VOTE THEM OUT”.

Several signs held by US war veterans – men and women – promoting tighter gun controls.

A sign in the distance: ‘Australia fixed this, so will we’.

Girl with sign ‘2020 voter’. A younger boy, sleeping on his father’s hip, sign tacked to his back ‘I vote in 9 years’.

Several ‘I’m marching in memoriam’ signs.

Woman with sign; ‘Students, thank you for your strength. We got your backs’.

Chant:  “Hey Hey Hey Hey, NRA; how many kids have you killed today?”

No one should die from gun violence in this country.

Now I’m going to get back to outing the gun manufacturers whose merchandise is designed and made to kill people.

This incident, #34 for the year on the Gun Violence Archive, is the first shootout I’ve come across. The Archive helpfully points out that a shootout is “where VENN diagram of shooters and victims overlap.” Maurice Delaney, 38, and Ali Mohamed, 31, killed one another around 4:25am on New Years Day 2017 in Chicago at a North Side Uptown neighborhood business. I found multiple sources to say that both guns disappeared from the crime scene before officers could take them in as evidence. DP 1 and 2

Ruger SR1911 – Default Pistol 1

Default Pistol 2 – S&W M&P

An 18-year-old teen was killed in a brawl that spilled out into the car park of the 508 Nightclub in Des Moines, Iowa. Frederico Thompson Jr, a father to a young girl, died around 3:30am at the scene. An article from 9th of January, 2017, remarks that there is no suspect named in the case, but the bar has had its liquor license suspended.

Another article in the Des Moines Register from the 1st of January, 2018, writes that police detectives claim to know who the killer is, but do not have the witnesses statements or photographs to back it up. There’s no information about the gun either. DP 1.

Ruger SR1911 – Default Pistol 1

Nineteen-year-old college student Christian Dawson died in Azure Banquet Hall, in Dallas, Tx, from what was reported to be a stray bullet. Several other people were shot, but none had life-threatening injuries. One year later the killing was still reported to be unsolved by the Dallas Police Department. No gun known. DP 2

Default Pistol 2 – S&W M&P

* * *  T R I G G E R   W A R N I N G * * *

Incident number 37 on the first of January involved Marissa Hope Reynoso (26), Elijah Chavez (4), Ezra Chavez (1) and Jorge Luis Chavez (25). Jorge Chavez and Reynoso had broken off their 5 year relationship in the preceding months, and members of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department had responded to two other calls from Reynoso about Chavez in that time. The gun was reported as a 9mm hand gun that had been previously reported stolen, some years before. Reynoso is survived by another daughter from a different relationship.

I have drawn a lot of 9mm weapons so far; the two Default Pistols are both 9mm, and so was the Glock 17 drawn for the Chicago police, and a Sig Sauer P226 and P229, also used by me to represent guns fired by police. So I’ve decided to add a new one, to the, uh… arsenal. The Glock 19 has been mentioned before round these parts, is famed for being a lightweight version of the 17, and is apparently a very popular gun. In that post I wrote that it was one of the guns that would likely get featured round here, so I guess it’s about that time.

Glock 19

Explaining Monday – Gun Day

**HERE LIVES THE MOTHER OF ALL TRIGGER WARNINGS**

There’s been a lot of news about guns in the last week. Last Tuesday I filed this article away for inclusion in today’s regular post; the Guardian reported that Remington was filing for bankruptcy, due at least in part to what they had termed “‘The Trump slump.'” A friendly administration for the gun lobby, and gun owners, has spelled radically decreased sales for gun manufacturers. But then on Wednesday, in a turn-around that would give you whiplash were you researching anything other than gun violence in the US, there was a mass shooting at a school in Florida on Valentine’s day. The cycle begins again.

My Monday – Gun Day series began on the 9th of October, 2017, a week and a day after the largest mass shooting involving a single perpetrator in US history had taken place in Las Vegas (all the modifiers are to remind us that there have been larger massacres in US history, usually racially motivated like that at Wounded Knee, or the Colfax Massacre, which was perpetrated by white Southern Democrats against about 150 black men.)

Since then, across 16 posts (including this one) made on Mondays (US Pacific time), I’ve been sharing my research about guns, and more specifically, the guns used in the 63 incidents in which people were killed on January 1st, 2017. But why? Well, firstly, some backstory that might help to explain.

I began the Monday – Gun Day series with an introduction to my work Gun from 2013/14. To design the work I replicated the AR-15 knock-off (made by Remington) used in the Sandy Hook mass shooting of 2012, into which I incorporated facts and figures I had researched about that days killings, which was, at that time, the second most deadly mass shooting perpetrated by a single person ever in the United States. I was making a series of pieces that used the tools of war to make a statement about humanity’s continuing poor relationship with itself, which I entitled The Escalation Series. My use of this gun, with all of its associations, pointed out an additional fact; the other tools of war I made pieces about were designed for, and were chiefly only accessible to, organised armies. This weapon, designed for and known as as the M-16 in the US armed forces, was and still is far too easily accessible to regular citizens of this country.

I thought after The Escalation series, in which I made jewellery pieces that depicted the following weapons of war:

tank
cannon
arrow
fire arrow
sword
gun
rpg
drone
cartridges with Minié ball bullets
Lapua Magnum shells (sniper rifle shells) from Combat Paper
multiple caltrops

as well as 3 versions of HEAT, a work (pictured below) that shows the molten metal spatter and penetration of a HEAT missile through armoured tank steel, that my association with weapons was done for a while. My focus had made a gentle pivot which saw me making mosaics out of enamelled laser cut steel, with which I could write by turns gentle, piercing and witty messages in binary.

From the series HEAT, (1 of 3) 2015
Strike
9 wall-mounted panels (565mm x 565mm – 22 3/16″ x 22 3/16″)
Stainless steel, vitreous enamel. Image Melissa Cameron.

From the series HEAT, (1 of 3) 2015
Spatter
neckpiece (480mm x 480mcm – 19″ x 19″)
Stainless steel, vitreous enamel, titanium. Image Melissa Cameron.

 

Then two things happened. I had been recently juried into the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize, for which I am to make a work out of found materials, and on the 1st of October I decided to do a stock-take of all the found objects I have lying about in my study, the same day that the current most deadly mass shooting perpetrated in modern times (this seems to be accepted as anything since 1950,) by a single shooter, happened.

Having memorialised a single-person shooting before, I did not want to go down that route again. I’ve read a lot of stories about Sandy Hook, and will continue to do so the rest of my days (it’s reportage on unjustified killings of defenseless white children in a 1st world nation, and thanks to our social/political/class climate, we will find it in the media for the foreseeable future,) and it’s a lot. And I don’t want to have to repeat myself.

I have other things that horrify me just as much as 59 deaths by one person in a day. 59 deaths on any day is a pretty shit day by most of the world’s standards, and I wanted a way to make that point. So I picked a day, New Year’s Day 2017, and got to work.

We know the weapons of the mass shootings because they get so much publicity. (The Guardian already has 3 pages of articles about last week’s shooting.)  [I’m getting cynical, which I usually try to banish from my writings, but it’s almost as if the amount of publicity is inverse to the amount of action that will be taken against the problem, despite the fact that I learned in another Guardian article linked to the Trump Slump article that, “Only 22 to 31% of Americans adults say they personally own a gun.” And what they call “gun super-ownership” is actually concentrated to 3% of the population.] Anyway, digressions aside. We know so little about the other gun deaths that happen in this country because everyone is so inured by the frequency of the killings that everyday gun violence doesn’t make it to the national news. But the weapons used by the mass murderer are studied ad nauseam, so of course we learn about the guns, the shells, the alternate weapons, the victims, the scene, the police department response, the slow and painful moving on.

But what about all the the other shootings? Which guns are responsible there?

Hopefully in just a few years time the gun lobby will face a shakedown that will be compared to that experienced by the tobacco lobby, and their unconscionable actions will be pored over in as much details as the lives of those involved in the Sandy Hook massacre. For right now, I’ve learned that there are great resources for finding out who was killed, when, and where, and more loosely, how. What’s becoming clear is that there is no focus put on the gun responsible, nor its manufacturer. In any other arena, should over 30,000 people get killed by any single type of object in a year, we, the public, would cry out for all the statistics on the make, model, age and condition of the thing responsible.

Thus my research project; for each person listed as killed on the Gun Violence Archive on the 1st of January, 2017, I am finding out what make and model of gun killed them, (or my best estimation thereof,) to draw a picture of what that gun looked like.

And when I have a picture of those weapons, I’m going to make a wearable piece of jewellery that incorporates every f*cking one of them.