National Sanctuary is Madison-based artist John Hitchcock’s biggest and boldest installation to date. Inspired by the long history of social and political commentary within the discipline of printmaking, Hitchcock frequently uses the medium to explore relationships of community, land, and culture. National Sanctuary tackles notions of safety, security and protection, not just of country, but the environment.
Many of the images he uses are interpretations of stories told by his grandparents and abstract representations influenced by Native-American beadwork, culture and land. In National Sanctuary he uses pelts, buffalo skulls, and birds to reference animals, and birds, such as passenger pigeons, that are either extinct or near extinction because of human activity. The central component is the haunting, destructive depiction of a large tornado made from naugahyde pelts covered in buffalo skulls. The helicopters reference the artist’s childhood spent next door to the US military base in Fort Still, Oklahoma, where, from an early age, Hitchcock saw the weapons of war and how tribal names were co-opted by the military for equipment such as helicopters (Apache, Blackhawk,Chinook, Kiowa). National Sanctuary challenges viewers to think about humanity’s relationship with nature, the trauma of war and the fragility of life.
John Hitchcock was born in Lawton, Oklahoma and grew up on Comanche Tribal Lands in the Wichita Mountains of the Southern Plains of Oklahoma. He moved from the Southern Plains to the Midwest in 1998 and has lived in Madison, Wisconsin since 2001, where he teaches at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.