BAR HARBOR — Passamaquoddy artist and former Bar Harbor resident Geo Neptune, who has been earning recognition at Indian Markets and museum events around the country, returned for the Native American Festival and Basketmakers Market held at the College of the Atlantic Saturday.
Grandmother Molly and other elders, many of whom also showed work at the festival Saturday, shared their secrets with Neptune.
Last month at the Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival in Indianapolis, one of Neptune’s pieces was chosen as the “signature work” featured on event materials and one was purchased by the museum for their permanent collection.
Both baskets are woven in rainbow colors. “They came about with me considering how my art can speak to sexuality and gender identity and expression,” Neptune said in a statement. “That’s been the direction I’ve been going with my art as I’ve been focusing on it full-time.”
Geo (nee George) identifies as a “two spirit,” a term used in many tribal cultures to describe a person who does not identify with a single gender and has a certain spiritual role in the tribe.
The rainbow corn-shaped basket is called “Piyaaassskomon,” a variation on the Passamaquoddy word for corn or maize.
The other, Ceremony of the Singing Stars, was woven specifically as a tribute for Pride month and the victims of the Pulse Orlando massacre.
“It was really meant to raise awareness of queer people and the struggles that we are still facing, hoping to get people to acknowledge and consider that and not push it aside or ignore it.”
The memory of the late David Moses Bridges also was close at hand during the weaving, Neptune said. The piece is made from black ash, sweetgrass and birch bark.
“It was four hours of math!” they said, just to plan out the strands and the patterns.
The “Ceremony of the Singing Stars” is a very old Passamaquoddy song, they said, one of the first to be written down. It tells the story of the stars on their journey on the spirit road, which also is the Milky Way.
At the rim of the basket is a chickadee carrying a “katkuk,” or small woven pot. In the story, the chickadee is hunting for bear and will cook the bear meat in her pot.
“The chickadee is one of my totems, or relatives,” Neptune said. “But so is the bear. So I was asking chickadee to use a piece of me to nourish those spirits for their journey.”