The work in this series was created during a year-long residency at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, culminating in the exhibition Mending Rushmore featuring both collaborative and individual works by Bri Murphy and Belle-Pilar Fleming. Proximity to Mount Rushmore, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, offered the opportunity to reflect on competing themes of building and erasure, of celebration and mourning, of pride and shame.
The tourism economies that surround and in many ways define sites like Mount Rushmore are responsible for a large cache of souvenirs and tchotchkes that make their way across the country and around the world, often ending up in thrift shops, garage sales, and for sale on eBay. These symbols, in their varying forms of apparel and bric-a-brac, tell a story of national pride which tends to obfuscate a violent and unjust past that still seethes despite the throngs of happy visitors. Rushmore is perhaps the most potent of these difficult histories, a massive carving of four white men into the heart of the mountain known as The Six Grandfathers, a sacred place to the Lakota people who were promised that very land in perpetuity by the U.S. government.
In response to this research, and with the debate around the removal of confederate monuments in the zeitgeist, the works in Mending Rushmore aim to pose difficult questions about representation, justice, and the lingering scars of colonialism on the American landscape. It is the hope of the artists to bring a deeper conversation about national pride and history, and the ways we choose to commemorate and to forget.