I’ve known artist and filmmaker Peter Jemison since I worked as Marketing Director at Ganondagan State Historic Site about six years ago. I still always marvel at what an eloquent and thoughtful speaker he is.
On one of the most brutally cold days in February, I had the opportunity to visit him in his studio, a former one-room schoolhouse, located at the end of School Street in Victor, NY. I had interviewed him for an article in Ganondagan’s newsletter, about six years ago, and it was wonderful to pick up where we left off, and to talk about some of his more recent projects, such as The Iroquois Creation Story Film that he is currently collaborating on with choreographer Garth Fagan and filmmaker/RIT Associate Professor Cat Ashworth.
We also talked about how his career at Ganondagan and the concept of Orenda has influenced his art.
I really appreciated Peter’s candor. Like many artists, he has perfectionist tendencies, and in spite of his successful career as both artist and curator, he shared that he often questions the value of his work. He discusses how he has come to think about his work, in a way that calms that negative inner voice we all wrestle with.
Peter is of Seneca Heritage – he is an eighth generation descendant of Mary Jemison, White Woman of the Genesee. Although I felt a little strange asking, I was curious to know his thoughts, as an artist, about being referred to by his Native American heritage, rather than by the type of art he creates, or the medium in which he works. I think his answer will surprise you.
P.S. The Iroquois Creation Story is scheduled to be finished about the time of the Seneca Art and Culture Center, so be sure to attend Ganondagan’s Dance & Music Festival on July 25 and 26, 2015 to see both!
P.P. S. If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to pick up a copy of the spring and summer issues of Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine, in which I will have a full article and photos on Peter in the spring issue, and on the new Seneca Art and Culture Center in the summer issue.