Faces of our Fathers Series I
"Faces of our Fathers - American Horse"
"Faces of our Fathers - The Warrior"
"Faces of our Fathers - Hollow Horn Bear"
"Faces of our Fathers - Young Man They Fear Even His Horse"
"Faces of our Fathers - Geronimo"
"Faces of our Fathers - Victorio"
The idea for this project began when I noticed similarities between the Native American man featured in 'The Warrior' (an iconic photograph) and my father, Howard Toole. Howard survived what was, for most of his life, a hardscrabble existence. He left home at 17, fought for work during the Great Depression, and spent much of his life working in the hot, dusty, outdoors of the Midwest, notably including the Dust Bowl era. He had the same heavily-weathered skin as the Native American man, and the same eyes that were no longer white due to scarring from the wind and sun. I tried to capture this when I painted "The Warrior".
The piece seemed to inspire several animated conversations, so I did more research on Native American leaders and found myself overwhelmed with the power that they displayed as a group. I had intense conversations about the concept with a close friend; we explored why and how the project came to me, a non Native American. It became a deeply personal journey.
As these conversations were happening, I came across the following passage from Willa Cather's book "Death Comes For The Archbishop", which I found to be relevant to the project I was considering (emphasis added):
The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is about us always.
Context aside, I received this as more of a spiritual statement about living our lives with frequent reflection than one about religion.
Along with recorded information, threads of stories and my interpretation of recorded images, I hope the work I've done as part of this project will aid in "our perceptions becoming finer". Allow these basic concepts to come forward for our reflection and our use.
Vision / Mission
This exhibit will feature oil paintings by artist Narrie Toole. "Faces of Our Fathers" (Series I) is a group of 20+ 60"x36" paintings. Each work is of a Native American who was a forward thinker that contributed positive things to his or her people through creative problem solving, and exhibited true integrity. The paintings are done "close in," to focus on eyes and demeanor and with each painting having a short, powerful curation describing these qualities. The purpose of each image is not so much to tell the story of each individual, but to remind the viewer of what constitutes a successful life.
I am not, nor do I attempt to portray myself as, a Native American. I am, however very taken with the weatherworn dignity of these men and women, much as I remember my father and others who endured hard lives. The sun and the wind have a way of etching character deeply. As I look into these faces from long ago, learn more about each one's dedication to the people as a whole, their skill in creative negotiation, and putting their personal lives aside, I am compelled to find a way to reveal their inner humanitarian through my paintings. I hope to give pause and reflection on their basic sensibilities.