In 2013, on behalf of a Mellon Grant focusing on art and the environment, Pitzer invited Edgar Heap of Birds to be the inaugural artist in residence and create a work that synthesized the two core components of the grant. Edgar designed a series of twenty thought provoking signs exploring the history of those native to the land that we call home. Hoping to “infiltrate the psyche” of society, the signs are bold, direct, and purposefully perplexing. Each sign consists of “ainrofilac today your host is”, followed by locations sacred to the Tongva people. Aesthetically, the signs make use of blue, capital block letters set against a white background to create a visually engaging feel and arouse wonder or curiosity.
The artist’s work embodies the idea of media as a means of spurring social change. In an interview posted by Pitzer regarding the native host project, the artist discusses his desire to puncture society and draw our campus into a dialogue or reflection about the tribal identity of the land where we reside. Using a bold typeface, the jarring quality of California spelled backwards, and foreign words Edgar hoped to garner onlooker investigation and create a more socially aware community, reminding us that we are all in a sense being hosted by the Tongva nations.
In terms of effectiveness, however, I cannot say that Edgar’s works moved me to research the content of the signs prior to this assignment. They have certainly piqued my interest, but for whatever reason, not enough so to take the time to delve into their significance. That being said, I am appreciative that Pitzer, in conjunction with the Mellon foundation, brought Edgar Heap of Birds to campus. His work is certainly a welcome addition, even if only for its aesthetic qualities.