Celebrated Wabanaki designers dropped jewelry for a new art form
Extra than 20 years soon after Penobscot Nation artists Jason Brown and Donna Decontie Brown…
Extra than 20 years soon after Penobscot Nation artists Jason Brown and Donna Decontie Brown very first commenced earning and marketing jewellery as Decontie & Brown, the pair have hung up their pliers for now in favor of a more expansive, interdisciplinary way of earning art.
Shortly just after the pandemic started, Jason Brown threw his passion driving Firefly, a multimedia overall performance art task that for the previous two a long time has reworked his artistic existence. By tunes, online video, dance and manner, Brown results in an immersive reside experience, drawing on ancestral Wabanaki audio and imagery, but with a futuristic twist.
“It’s Indigenous futurism,” he claimed. “Many people today imagine of Indigenous individuals as one thing historical, or from the previous. They never see us as recent, and they guaranteed as heck don’t see us as futuristic. But we are here, and we will be right here. One particular of the causes why I do this is to present that.”
The path to Firefly was a lengthy but inescapable a single. In 2016, Decontie & Brown commenced making clothing and add-ons in addition to jewellery, showing up in fashion displays at important Indigenous American artwork exhibits like the Santa Fe Indian Market place, the Read Museum Guild Indian Market in Phoenix, Arizona, and a lot more locally at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor.
Brown established his possess new music for some of people reveals, spurring him to study far more about recording and making soulful electronic beats more than which to sing and drum. The tunes themselves were being presently there, drawing on the ancient Wabanaki music he discovered several years ago from tribal elders.
“There’s a reason why these chants, these notes, these melodies have lasted for hundreds of decades,” he reported. “They may have transformed a minor bit over the generations, but the original energy powering them flows by. We just put our individual flavor on it and hand it forward. It’s all element of a continuation of this 13,000-12 months-aged circle of creativeness.”
Though Brown and his spouse and artistic lover Decontie Brown experienced found a wonderful deal of achievements in creating fantastic jewelry, when the pandemic struck, it adjusted everything for them. All the artwork exhibits they ordinarily traveled to in the spring, summer time and fall have been canceled.
Bored and restless, Brown commenced web hosting are living streams featuring himself singing and drumming about those beats, donning some of the clothes layouts he and Decontie Brown built, and setting up evocative lights in deep purples, blues, reds and greens — shades encouraged by the light of fireflies, the aurora, and the night sky in typical.
His reside streams had been preferred appropriate off the bat, and Brown dubbed the challenge Firefly. Following a number of months, it turned really very clear to him that this was the path he needed to go in creatively. In 2021, he and Decontie Brown made the choice to get started refocusing Decontie & Brown absent from entirely jewelry and fashion, and toward becoming a “house of creativity” — a partnership that encompasses the style, music, and online video elements of their do the job.
“COVID was a tragedy, but it also was a wonderful reset for so quite a few persons. It designed so numerous people today reevaluate the factors in their lives,” he said. “I know it did for me.”
Because then, Brown has released a number of music as Firefly, releasing his debut album, “Sacred Fire,” very last calendar year. He has done reside reveals across Maine and the state, which includes quite a few reveals in Portland around the winter season. In his dwell displays, he transforms venues into shimmering nighttime wonderlands, and he encourages audiences to participate in the singing and rhythmic factors.
Earlier this 12 months Brown also done do the job as Firefly on a piece of digital video artwork identified as “WABANAVIA,” that explores not just his Wabanaki heritage, but also Scandinavian roots, as he has ancestors from Sweden. The Portland Museum of Artwork procured “WABANAVIA” in February as component of its long-lasting assortment.
Whilst Brown tends to make his new music and visible aspects, Donna Decontie Brown performs with him to craft and execute the are living demonstrates and handle their enterprise, whilst working as director of the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition. They’ve also been chaotic transforming their Bangor residence and studio into a hub of multimedia activity, and absent from getting a jewellery studio.
Not that Brown intends to give up jewelry earning without end. It’s what acquired him started out as an artist, and what place him on the route to Firefly.
“Just the other working day I experienced to get my instruments out so I could do a little repair service on a piece I manufactured a handful of many years ago,” he explained. “It’s wonderful to keep in mind that I haven’t shed my contact, even if my creativity is in a distinctive place now.”
Firefly will next perform on Saturday, June 18 at the Bangor Arts Exchange, as element of WERU-FM’s summer season concert collection. For extra info, take a look at fireflythehybrid.com.