Edgar Heap of Birds
This thematic chapter examines several of Heap of Birds’s ongoing series, including the abstract Neuf paintings and his conceptual public art interventions, such as the artist’s well-known Native Hosts projects. These works are discussed in light of the tradition of landscape representations in art history, and in terms of Native American political sovereignty and land rights, as well as indigenous conceptions of nationhood in relation to the natural environment. This chapter also sketches a history of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, conflicts with non-Native settlers and the U.S. military, significant historical events such as massacres at Sand Creek and Washita, the tribes’ displacement from their traditional territories, and their settlement in present-day Oklahoma. The artist’s abstract paintings and text-based public artworks are interpreted as expressions of indigenous nationhood, as well as of an indigenous philosophy and worldview vis-à-vis nonhuman nature.