"People seem to mark life transitions and loss in particular with Ititamat, III," said artist Anne Bullock of Dancing Wind Studio in Walla Walla.
"Plateau Series: Bones of Warp and Weft," opened today. The community-based art project, Ititamat Series, III, is displayed in Room 117, Building D, at Walla Walla Community College.
"Art heals, I believe. People have tied on metal ID tags of deceased pets, cancer survivors tie on items of personal significance, the wedding rings of a failed relationship are tied in, a metal washer from one's machinist father, a daughter's purple crayon from a devoted daddy," she said.
Ititamat comes from the Mid-Columbia and Plateau early peoples' tradition of the time ball or "counting the days."
When a woman married she began a time ball; each day she tied a knot in a length of hemp twine to mark the day, Bullock said.
Women would note significant days -- a wedding, a successful harvest or a birth -- by tieing in a special token, fetish, bright bead or shell.
Mary Dodds Schlick explained the important use of hemp her book, "Columbia River Basketry: Gift of the Ancestors, Gift of the Earth." "Of all the important uses for Indian hemp along the Columbia River, the ititamat, or 'counting the days' ball may have the most significance for the people themselves."
For more than a year Bullock gathered memorabilia and met with people at her studio, in homes, galleries and classrooms where participants tied on items of significance and strung strands to add to the Ititamat, III. "It's a wonderful warehouse of story and narrative. They included items such as deceased pets' tags. There are so many interesting stories. I like people to have a hand in my art in a way," she said.
Vicki Shafer's HomeLink and art students from Berney School are among those participating.
Bullock's adaptation of the custom is similar to the roles tweets and blogs play in culture today, she said.
Ititamats were portable and a way of documenting and recalling life events.
When a woman died, her ititamat was buried with her; it was a sacred and important object of record, Bullock said.
"By tracing the inspirited time line with her fingers I imagine those fluttering, eager fingers encountering a series of knots, a fetish and bead that prompted memory. I find this tradition inspiring, and I am drawn to how this act of reflection perpetuates narrative and history," Bullock said.
Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and by appointment at 509-527-1873. Online see www.abullock.com or call Bullock at 509-520-8443.
Following the display at WWCC, the project will be on exhibit in September at Moses Lake Museum and Art Center.