Masks of the Calusa (2023)
Technique /Materials : Wood Sculpture

The indigenous inhabitants of my hometown were a people called the Calusa. They had a complex religion based on the animals of the region, a verdant estuary teeming with wildlife. These people refused to be colonized by the Spanish invaders, and despite aggressive efforts to force them to convert to Christianity, the Calusa remained steadfast in their devotion to their naturalistic gods. Though they pushed the conquistadors back and defended their territory for over a century, they eventually succumbed to diseases brought from Europe, and the Calusa and their religious traditions have completely vanished. All that remains of this civilization are the stories told by their oppressors, describing zealous priests wearing colorful animal masks as well as their prowess in battle. These stories have always fascinated me, and I grew up with the idea of these animal spirits laying dormant and silent, waiting for their worshipers to return and honor them. With this collection, I used my knowledge of regional biology and imaged a pantheon of deities the Calusa might have revered. Historians may never know the true story of these people, but I hope to keep a flicker of their ferocity and honor alive by creating something to spark interest in their memory.