Kelly Church (American, b. 1967)
MediumBlack ash, sweetgrass, copper, Rit dye, velvet, glass vial, Emerald Ash Borer Beatle
DimensionsWork : 8 3/4 x 4 3/4 x 4 3/4 in. (22.23 x 12.07 x 12.07 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelFor centuries the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi and other indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region used black ash wood to make baskets, fish traps, snowshoes, lacrosse sticks and various other woven and bentwood objects. Although all of those objects can now be made from other materials, black ash weaving remains an important tradition that helps many Native American individuals and communities maintain a sense of connection to their cultural heritage. That heritage is threatened, however, by an invasive insect, the Emerald Ash Borer, which was inadvertently brought to the Great Lakes region from Asia in the 1990s and is now killing large numbers of black ash trees throughout the area. Michigan artist Kelly Church draws attention to this danger by making black ash baskets in which some portions of the basket are woven with materials other than wood to signify the disappearance of the black ash trees. For this basket, Church dyed the ash wood green and used copper as the replacement material to mimic the natural coloring of the Emerald Ash Borer. The inside of the basket is lined with velvet and contains a specimen of the invasive beetle preserved in a glass vial. Church is a fifth-generation black ash basket maker of mixed Potawatomi, Ojibwe, Odawa and European heritage and is an enrolled member of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians in Allegan County, Michigan.