New Ghostdance Gallery built on Native American philosophies
“One of my main ideas was to bring the Ghost Dance philosophy into the new millennium,” explains Floyd Chacon. The fiftyish artist with a silver ponytail is talking about the inspiration for his 7-month-old Ghostdance Gallery in south Chico.
Chacon, who is “three-quarters Western Apache,” speaks passionately of the “U.S. Cavalry committing unbelievable genocide against Native Americans.” He is quick to move, however, to his positive idea of working to create a “peaceful, utopian environment without war, without hate,” which he sees as one of the fundamental goals of the Ghost Dance.
The Ghost Dance religious movement goes back to the late-19th century, when Paiute Indian Jack Wilson, a.k.a. Wakova, had a revelation during a total eclipse of the sun that the Ghost Dance could connect Indians with relatives and loved ones in the ghost world. To the dispirited Western Indians of the time, the message was an exhilarating illumination, and the Ghost Dance spread rapidly among the tribes—so much so that it made white settlers nervous and was one of the contributing factors to the massacre at Wounded Knee.
“The Ghost Dance, for me [now],” Chacon continues excitedly, “is to re-educate everybody about the greatness of all peoples living in harmony.” Chacon promotes his vision of world harmony through the powerful paintings, drawings and sculptures—both his and other artists'—on display at his recently opened Ghostdance Gallery.
Paintings depicting Anasazi kachinas and the “birth of Kokopelli” hang alongside playful “Everyman” wire sculptures and a painting of Don Quixote in tennis shoes.
Chacon, an ex-Air Force man who moved to Chico from Berkeley in 1990 after working in a genetic-engineering lab for 13 years ("I got tired of the rat race and decided to reinvent myself and move here and become an artist,” he says), joined forces with local writer/photographer Annabelle MacDonald to bring the Ghostdance Gallery into existence last November.
MacDonald, whom Chacon fondly describes as “one of the main movers” in finding the ideal location for and founding Ghostdance, recently split off from Ghostdance to form what both she and Chacon term a “sister gallery"—818 Arts (818 Salem St.)—that will function cooperatively with Ghostdance.
For example, part-Cherokee digital artist David Scott (www.artistscott.com), whose colorful, computer-manipulated, mixed-media “tribute to Van Gogh"/self-portrait paintings hang currently at Ghostdance, will also be showing his work in the near future at MacDonald’s new place.
One of Chacon’s own numerous, moving pieces in the gallery is his somewhat abstract ink-and-brush portrait of Captain Jack (a.k.a. Kintpuash), of the Southern Oregon/ Northern California Modoc tribe who, in 1872-73, led a few dozen of his people in a valiant fight against more than 1,000 U.S. Army soldiers, holding on for months before finally being forced to surrender.
Chacon, who worked at one time as a U.S. Forest Service ranger in the Medicine Lake/National Lava Beds National Monument area in which Captain Jack and his men took up their defensive position against the Army, is almost at a loss for words as to how he created the striking piece, in which Captain Jack’s bravery and passion are almost spookily palpable. With a look of wonder and compassion in his eyes, Chacon softly and calmly describes how the image “came to [him]” and he quickly painted it. One gets the sense that Chacon virtually channels from the “ghost world” some of the images he paints.
Nowhere is that sense of Chacon’s channeling his forbears more evident than in his charcoal drawing entitled “Honorable Elder.” The portrait somewhat resembles Chacon himself (unintentionally, he says), a fact that MacDonald feels points to Chacon’s being in touch with the spirit of his ancestors. Chacon furthers the mystery: “See that ghost image?” he asks as he points to the small, dusky image of a face in the lower-left-hand corner of the piece, not noticeable on first viewing. “I didn’t notice that until later. I didn’t intend for that to be there.”