Artist Garrick Imatani has completed the second phase of his permanent exhibit in the atrium of Straub Hall at the University of Oregon. For phase one, Imatani painted a mural of the Willamette River Basin. For phase two, he installed a sculpture of the Willamette Meteorite. In the development of this project, Imatani was compelled by the meteorite's geologic and human history: “Despite not even being from this planet, this extraterrestrial rock still manages to be a container for the complicated and often fraught politics of this region….”
Roughly 14,000 years ago, the indigenous peoples of the Willamette Valley discovered the meteorite, which had landed in Canada or Montana before, as part of the Missoula Floods, floating down and settling in the Willamette Valley. Tomanowos, or "the visitor from the sky," became a sacred object in tribes' ceremonies. At the turn of the century, the meteorite was rediscovered near West Linn, Oregon, by a settler. After some controversy in ownership, the meteorite was sold to a socialite who ultimately donated it to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City, where it resides today.
Every year members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde travel to the AMNH to conduct private ceremonies with the meteorite. Imatani accompanied members of the tribes to, with their permission, 3D scan the meteorite. The completed sculpture based on these scans now hangs in the center of the atrium at Straub Hall “with,” in the artist’s words, “a harness of ropes to imply a sense of suspended motion or time, as well as its own history of travel.” The third and final part of the exhibit will be photographic diptychs that combine archival images with modern reenactments. Imatani is currently arranging a blessing ceremony of the sculpture by members of the Grand Ronde.