Solutions: Art for a Cause
Photo: Stephanie Freid Perenchio
Rebel with a Cause
STEPHANIE FREID PERENCHIO
Like so many others, local humanitarian documentary photographer Stephanie Freid Perenchio was captured by Sun Valley’s expansive charm and fresh air. But since moving from Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters, she has been determined to bring the outside world into Sun Valley for people to see, converse about and act upon.
When 9/11 hit the United States, Perenchio was struck by how easily one can fall into “living in a bubble,” when in reality there exists, of course, a much larger world. As she described, “I really wanted to give back to some of the people that I felt were fighting the war and letting us have the life that we have here.” She had a connection with an officer in the Navy SEALs who ran special operations in Afghanistan and pitched him the idea of doing “A Day in the Life of a SEAL” project that would give people a better understanding of the daily sacrifices, both in the field and at home, of these men and their families.
Perenchio and her good friend, writer Jennifer Walton, were granted unprecedented access to pursue the project, which they worked on throughout the course of eight years, spending months at a time in Afghanistan, jumping from planes, learning to shoot guns and interviewing, and spending time with, the SEALs and their families.
During her time in Afghanistan, the people, particularly the women and children, also drew her attention and her camera. Perenchio wanted to bring the moments of peace and the realities of the humanity of Afghanistan back for the world to see.
“Not everyone is a Taliban or al Qaeda, and not every Taliban is defined in the way our media has portrayed it,” said Perenchio. “Those soldiers are like our soldiers, fighting for their land, their purpose, their survival. Because they are a country that has been invaded for over 30 years, I think they’re just figuring out who they are as people again.”
and have an awareness of what is going on in the world.
That’s what drives me more than anything.”
Driven to immerse herself in experiences across the globe in order to create change hasn’t been without challenge. She noted, “You are there to document and observe, not to solve the issue.” After a pause, she continued, “That’s a really fine line. It is always the hardest in Third World countries with children, and with the elephants and cats in Africa. All of a sudden, you come across a situation where your moral values get tested. Being reminded what your place is in this picture, it is hard to emotionally separate.”
This doesn’t stop her, as Perenchio charges ahead with a particular interest in women’s empowerment across the globe and an attraction and openness for adventure and seeing the rarely seen. “Most Americans never leave the country, let alone their state, let alone 50 miles away from their house,” she said. “With photography, I can make them see, understand, and have an awareness of what is going on in the world. That’s what drives me more than anything.”
The Stephanie Freid Perenchio Studio is located at 680 East Sun Valley Road in Ketchum and is open Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm in the winter and Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm in the summer. For more information on Perenchio’s documentary photography please visit her studio or stephaniefreidperenchio.com.
Yukultji Napangati walked out of the harsh heart of the Australian desert in 1984, never having ridden in a car, gone to a grocery store, used a telephone or interacted with a white person (or anyone other than her own family, for that matter). She was completely naked, and this mid-teen woman would shortly be deemed by the outside world as one of “the last nomads” and one of Australia’s greatest Aboriginal artists.
Julie Harvey, an art curator from Australia and creator of the Harvey Art Projects gallery in Ketchum, has made it her personal mission to get extraordinary artists, like Napangati, internationally recognized through the Aboriginal Art Movement.
“The paintings are a portal to this other world and culture,” Harvey said. “The act of painting in itself for an aboriginal artist is an everyday cultural activity. For them, painting is extremely significant in order to have a connection to their land, of which they are custodians over, and to their story, which they inherit at birth. It’s a very important connection, but what’s really exciting is that on top of that, they have a really strong design that naturally comes out of their art being imbued with a mythology that’s over 60,000 years old. It is unique because it doesn’t look tribal, it looks really modern, which makes it interesting and appealing from a collecting point of view.”
After Europeans settled Australia, many of the Aboriginal people continued to live a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence in the seemingly “unlivable” outback. That is, until 1910, when the government instituted a policy to round up natives and force them into settlements where they were to be made “more white.” This was an extremely dark and controversial time in the country’s history, during which many children were forcibly removed and “stolen” from their homes, even through the early 1970s. The only reason that some of the tribes, such as Napangati’s, remained untouched and intact was the simple reality that the Australian desert is so extensively massive and remote that white people simply could not and did not get everywhere.
The origin of the Aboriginal Art Movement was in a settlement in Papunya, where an art teacher from Melbourne named Geoffry Bardon noticed a couple of old men painting beautiful designs in the sand. He gave them some paint, and they began to paint trucks. Stopping them, he said, “No—don’t paint white man, paint black man,” and they then began to paint what had traditionally been drawn on bodies for ceremony and in the sand for the essential practice and expression of culture and story.
Harvey noted that the practice of painting “so powerfully connected those old despondent men to their whole reason for being. Their removal from the land was the most horrific thing that they had to endure, but when they painted their homeland, in an amazing act of fate, it very powerfully re-connected them to their place. It was a form of self-empowerment that eventually led to the men essentially saying ‘Screw you, government. We are going to walk back to the desert to live how we want to live.’”
Inevitably, the Aborigines continue to endure huge struggles as they now straddle two very different worlds. Many of them suffer from diabetes and alcoholism, but Harvey notes that she has the privilege of seeing them culturally strong, as she personally has relationships with the artists, many of whom live in remote places where they continue daily activities of hunting and ceremony.
Looking at a painting, Harvey observed, “They’re alive. These are living cultural works; they’re living because the culture is still being active every day. Most important, through a single sale of this art, the artist will be able to support a family and to keep their culture intact.”
The gallery for the Harvey Art Projects is located at 391 1st Avenue North in Ketchum and is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30am to 5pm. For more information about the Aboriginal art at Harvey Art Projects check out harveyartprojects.com.
She’s the woman who literally put everything on the line for a promise.
A contemporary visual artist and daughter of a sculptor, Andrea Maki grew up immersed in the art world. After graduating from NYU, she plunged into pursuing art as a full time career, something that, as her father warned, is certainly not easy. Maki never blinked in the face of challenge. As she described it, “I didn’t have a choice. Art is what I do; it’s who I am.”
Similarly, in April 2010, when Maki coordinated a photo shoot and found herself face-to-face with 21 displaced wild mares and their foals just south of Bellevue (where the horses had been residing under protection of Silent Voices Equine Rescue since the 2009 Challis Wilderness wild horse roundup), she didn’t think she had a choice—she was going to have to do something. Right there, as she stood in that crisp field, Maki made a promise to herself that she was going to make a change.
She immediately started knocking on doors and picking up the phone and discovered that being an artist and an outsider, originally from Seattle, actually worked to her advantage. People were more open and didn’t assume she was attached to any predetermined viewpoint about the issues of wild horses.
Historically, wild horses were protected in the United States under a 1971 law that banned inhumane treatment and selling for slaughter. In 2004, however, the law was gutted when Montana Senator Conrad Burns attached a one-page rider to a 3,300-page appropriations bill that was passed by Congress, and later signed into law by President Bush.
Maki noted that the current system for rounding up and taking wild horses out of their habitat is incredibly mismanaged, not to mention unethical. “Last year alone, $77 million of taxpayer money was used for helicopter roundups, shipping, and placing 47,000-50,000 wild horses in holding pens,” she explained. “The roundup in the Challis Wilderness Area in 2009 alone cost $410,000.”
In 2010 Maki officially founded Wild Love Preserve, a nonprofit that has been working collaboratively with the Bureau of Land Management, ranchers and locals. The ultimate goals of the foundation are: to replace helicopter roundups with roundups using local labor; to end future removal of wild horses from their primary habitat; to develop a responsible and sustainable regional wild horse management program; and to buy 432-acres and grazing parcels that are surrounded by public lands and forests, as well as create a protective corridor in the Herd Management Area. The property will also be used to hold conferences and educational retreats.
Maki is hoping that this model of collaboration can be used on a national level. It certainly takes time, as after working for the past two years on the project, Maki has just recently come to a place in which she can put out information. Ultimately and ideally, her work will create something that is long-lasting and durable.
At this point in her life, all of her time and effort are going into Wild Love Preserve, which she stated is primarily in need of funding. “This is about what carries on for future generations,” she explained. “In terms of my art, when people see these magnificent animals in huge six-foot-high images, when they see the details of eyelashes, the wonderfulness—they feel it and that’s what inspires people to act.”
To check out Maki’s photography or for more information about the Wild Love Preserve please visit wildlovepreserve.org.