In the spring of 1992 my Father Carl Beam was finishing and exhibiting the Columbus Project, a massive three phase body of work that spanned continents and the years 1986-1992, exhibited at ArtSpace PTBO and Art Gallery of Peterborough and lastly the Power Plant before touring to Italy. Upon its completion he launched into another massive project, moving home to the land he grew up on, quite literally 100 meters from his old family home in M'chigeeng First Nation. He and my mother Ann Beam, (a potent feminist artist in her own right) researched and built an adobe house and studio. It has been called their largest ceramic work as adobe is clay and sand. This labour of love sparked the next series of work for him, from 1992-1999 he worked on food sustainability, indigenous crop knowledge, hominy and the three sisters, pumpkins, gardens and his Ojibwe language (which had been damaged in his years at Garnier residential school in his youth) At this time gardens were not common in our community, but his enthusiasm for ecologically sound practices in modern life led to multiple gardens and for the artist a cultural renaissance. Producing beautiful poetic works pondering nature and our human place in it. These works led into his last two bodies of work "the whale of our being" which studied the interconnectedness of humans and the world using the whale as a current "canary in the goldmine" saying "whatever happens to the whale in some way happens to us, we are all related" This particular work shows the artist at bottom holding the soft fronds of a young hominy plant, hominy not widely known in mainstream Canadian eating habits was a staple for the Anishnaabek and other indigenous groups, a magical thing happens when hominy corn is dried and processed in the traditional way, boiled and mixed with maple ash the kernel phosphoresces for a split second and then puffs into a plump tasty morsel, nutty and almost like a potato and an acorn. Scientifically when this happens the corn is transformed nutritionally in a process that releases niacin called "nixtamalization" in English and "buhnugzihgeh ke" in Ojibwe. Regular corn cannot be eaten heavily, too much corn in a diet can cause Pellagra disease marked by dementia, diarrhea and dermatitis. For two centuries spaniards and colonists in the americas suffered this disease without adopting the magical process of hominy. For Carl the artist, this was an example of the chasm between European knowledge and Indigenous knowing, which marked the fields of most of his enquiries in his artistic practice. The image at top shows mature dried hominy hanging on the adobe clay wall of his home, ready to be processed which Beam later did in a video work called "Hominy" in the way he remembered his grandmother processing hominy. The work itself is an actual silver gelatin print, Beam would acquire the silver halide gel used to make photographs, and apply it to his favorite St Armand handmade paper from Montreal. Initially watercoloured with a soft pink ground, he sensitized and applied the photo collage in his largest darkroom, working outside at the dark of the moon on Manitoulin (dark sky preserve) he could perform darkroom photo processes without light pollution. The work was then washed and bathed in successive water baths and finished with the pencil handwritten text " plant communication....young hominy plant"
Anong Beam, written for Art Gallery of Peterborough