In The Gutenberg Galaxy (published 1962), Marshall McLuhan describes an earlier oral culture as communicating in 'languages of the heart'. With the invention of the printing press, a new standardized means of communication made text an archetype. McLuhan, a Canadian professor, philosopher and public intellectual (1911 – 1980), correctly predicted a digital future as the ecology of our time. His description of a global village, a mosaic of information involving ‘all people with all other people', proved to be true.
A parallel idea is explored in the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
“The interconnectedness of everything, the symbioses of who we are and what we do, the nexus between the intangible and tangible, the interdependence of the physical and spiritual – these concepts embody the whole philosophy of Native life and culture. This philosophy speaks volumes about the relationship between Native arts and our continuance as vital and living peoples and cultures into a future that the ancestors wanted – and fought and died for – on our behalf. Let us never cease honoring their gift”
W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), President and CEO, Autry Museum of the American West and Founding Director, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution Antithetical to our current 24/7 information cycle, Languages of the Heart presents work that shares a direct handmade aesthetic unmediated through computers. Using an abstract vocabulary, these contemporary artists employ repetition, pattern and mark making to create singular imagery. Included in the pairings are diverse indigenous pieces ranging from an embroidered cornhusk bag, painted rawhide parfleches, beaded leggings, a wooden navigational tool, a bird-shaped clay pot, and beaded belt pouches. These works are all utilitarian objects, containers of some kind, made for personal use or to sell in the marketplace. Using both handmade and commercial materials each object is skillfully embellished with color and design which differentiates the individual maker but also reflects the particular people. The fluid boundary between arts and crafts, hand and heart binds both bodies of work.
In Cat Balco's painting, Blue Diamond Orange Shine, an eight-sided star holds center stage. Her performative painting process, using large household brushes loaded with liquid paint, reinforces the centripetal centrifugal nature of her work. The end result is fast action captured to create a slow mandala-like read. The 19th Century Crow parfleche selected was used as 'luggage' to contain clothes, dried meats, pemmican and other items. Coincidently, both works employ a similar color structure and geometric play.