Cuyahoga Ziibi Waasamoo: Drawing for the Cleveland Museum of Art (Cuyahoga River Lightning: Drawing for the Cleveland Museum of Art)

Cuyahoga Ziibi Waasamoo: Drawing for the Cleveland Museum of Art, 2018

Gunpowder on canvas. Courtesy the artist © Cai Guo-Qiang Installation photography by Charlie Edwards, courtesy of the University of Michigan Museum of Art

About the Art

Cai Guo-Qiang
China, gaa-ondaadizi 1957

Cuyahoga Ziibi Waasamoo: Drawing for the Cleveland Museum of Art
Makade-bingwi ningaasimooniigining
Gimiigwechiwenimaanaan Gaazheninjiged

Cai Guo-Qiang ogii-giizhenindaan Cuyahoga Ziibi Waasamoo wii-mikwendamang nibi aangodinong daa-banaajichigaadeg gemaa bichibonaaniwang miinawaa nadawendaagwag wii-bimaadiziyang. Cleveland izhi-Ganawendaanaawaan Gaazheninjigaadeg waabanda’inegwaa ishkwa gichibanaajichigaadeg akiing wenji-nanaandomangid Gaazheninjiged. Wiinibimide Cuyahoga Ziibi gii-zaka’igaade 1969-ing besho Cleveland oodenang. Chi-anokiiwigamig gii-wiiyagiskang nibi wenji-izhiwebag. Ishkwaa Ishkode ‘69 bemaadizijig gichimookomaanakiing aanjitoowaad ezhi-ganawendamowaad aki, nibi, bemaadizijig miinawaa ezhi-maamawibimaadiziyang.

Makade-bingwi Cai o’aabajitoon ji-mazinibii’ang ezhi-bimitigweyaag ziibi miidash zakizang. Giwaabandaan gii-jaagizibii’iged ningaasimooniigining (mii mazinaatesewan izhi-ishkonagaadeg waabanjigaadeg gii-iziwebag.) Gii-biskanese mii dash biigwaakideg miinawaa waabanjigaadeg gakina gaagige-aanjsemigag.

Makade-bingwi ogii-giizhenindaanaawaa aniibiishaabookewininiwag mii ezhinikaadamowaad huoyao aniibiishaabookewininiimong mii idamowaad “ishkode-mashkiki” aawang. Ezhi-bimitigweyaa ziibi waabanjigaadeg qi, “bimaadizi-mashkawiziwin” enendamowaad aniibiishaabookewakiing.

Cai Guo-Qiang
China, born 1957

Cuyahoga River Lightning: Drawing for the Cleveland Museum of Art
Gunpowder on canvas
Collection of the artist

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Cuyahoga River Lightning is a reminder that water is a life force that can be sickened or destroyed. This work was commissioned by the Cleveland Museum of Art for an environmental disaster that took place over fifty years ago: in 1969, a section of the infamous Cuyahoga River that runs through Cleveland caught fire following more than a century of pollution from the oil, steel, and sewage industries. Though fires on the river were common, the ’69 fire became a flashpoint for the burgeoning environmental movement in the United States.

In this work, Cai traced the river’s path using gunpowder, which he then ignited. The burnt residue is visible on the canvas (the adjacent video shows the creation process of the gunpowder painting). The combustion created a spectacle of destruction while also conveying the transformative power of change.

Gunpowder was invented by the Chinese, who call it huoyao, meaning “fire medicine” and the river’s undulating path evokes qi, meaning “vital energy,” in Chinese medicine.

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