John William Bailly
Tequesta Leading the People, 2022 (Flower Wars)
Oil on canvas
86 x 118 inches / 220 x 300 centimeters
Courtesy of the Artist
The painting “Tequesta Leading the People” acknowledges the Tequesta as the geographic ancestors of all Miamians and represents Bailly’s attempt to connect with the people that were the guardians of Miami for two millenia. The Tequesta occupied this land from approximately 500 BCE to 1763. The main city of the Tequesta territory was at the mouth of the Miami River, but they had satellite villages from present day Palm beach to the northern Florida Keys. One of these sites was the Deering Estate. The two most important Tequesta archeological sites at the Deering Estate are the Cutler Burial Mound and the Tequesta Midden.
During his time as Artist-in-Residence Fellow at the Deering Estate, Bailly regularly hiked out to the Tequesta Burial Mound to draw it, as part of his In Situ drawing project. The setting of “Tequesta Leading the People” is this site.
“Cutler Burial Mound – This resource is a small conical mound situated in a hardwood hammock in the Estate…Excavations by Henry Perrine, Jr. in the 1880’s revealed human remains of both adults and children. Perrine offered the following description, one of the few accounts of pre-historic mortuary practices of South Florida’s Native Americans that archaeologists possess, which states that ‘… the skulls in nearly every instance showed that they had been buried with their face downwards, and with the tops toward the center of the mound. It seems as though the heads only have been placed in position for they were near the outer rim of the mound and none of the larger bones of the limbs beyond…'” Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department
“Tequesta Leading the People” depicts the Tequesta as mythological figures asserting themselves in a celebration of autonomy. As a French-American, Bailly consistently combines the nature and culture of Miami and France into a Transatlantic narrative. As artistic inspiration of the assertion of autonomy, Bailly drew on his In Situ drawing of Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” in the Musée du Louvre. For this work, the setting of the Tequesta Burial Mound is combined with the composition of Delacroix’s painting. The flag is replaced with the oak tree that grows over the burial mound.
18 September 2022
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