Christopher Olszewski


In the Footsteps of Custer : Skins Project Summer 2014


My proposal is to produce a body of work based on “SKINS”. I am painting images on vinyl automobile covers and covering my 2005 Pontiac Montana. The vinyl will be manipulated while on the vehicle and replaced as needed with fresh skin. The collection of skins will construct an exhibition based on the experience gained from retracing the demise of General George Armstrong Custer from his childhood home in Monroe, Michigan to his violent death in Little Big Horn, Montana. General Custer is a larger than-life historical figure who has been canonized in American folklore and demonized by the Native Americans he fought to eradicate.

The printing on the skin will be text (Custer Died For Your Sins, I Survived Catholic School and We Are Still Here), iconic Pontiac logos, images of apples, feathers and brightly colored designs. The color scheme for this project is red and white. I am half Native American and Polish American. My skin color has always been not quite red and yet not white enough. The vehicle is an avatar of the crossroads of my cultural assimilation.

While traveling, I will collaborate with Tribal Colleges, Native peoples, interview, and visit museums, battlegrounds, ceremonial sites and research Native American art collections. I will produce photographs, videos, collage and watercolor drawings while developing collaborative works, sight specific and time based pieces. Each location will have an art piece dedicated to the historical context of General George Armstrong Custer and address the importance of healing, remembering and forgiving. I will encourage the vehicle to be decorated by each individual with whom I come into contact. At the beginning of the trek, the vehicle will be a blank canvas and each mark, sticker, dent and repair will be a testament to the rich cultural dialog of the journey. This project is the convergence of years of dedicated research into multicultural identity and the positioning of Native American artists in a contemporary context. It is also a means of transitioning my theories about cultural identity into a tangible body of work.

Thank you.