Dispersed around Pitzer College, a series of blue and white signs created by the artist Edgar Heap of Birds makes a bold statement. These signs are relatively confusing at first glance, but possess a deeper meaning surrounding the original Native occupants of the Claremont Colleges campuses. The signs read “CALIFORNIA (backwards)/ TODAY YOUR HOST IS/” followed by the name of a sacred village, river or mountain in the Los Angeles basin, such as TOROJOATNGNA, which is a sacred village in which the town of Claremont is now located. Through his art installations, Edgar Heap of Birds forces the viewer to not only think about who occupied their home before them, but to consider the displacement of the Native Host, something rarely considered on a college campus. These art installations make a subtle statement regarding Native land and displacement, bringing awareness to current occupiers about the original Californians. All of this information is available on the Pomona College Museum of Art website.
I think this instillation is particularly fascinating because of its aesthetic, it blends in so easily with other institutional designs. A plain white sign with blue lettering fits in seamlessly in any college campus, even one as naturally beautiful as Pitzer. I think this is why this series is often dismissed at first. I enjoy the juxtaposition that lies in its institutional sameness contrasted with the backwards text and tribal language. I think Edgar Heap of Birds weeds out active and observational viewers with this piece, and asks them to be more aware of not only their surroundings, but also the history of said surroundings.