This summer the RMCAD sculpture garden has featured a 25-foot-tall tipi within its grounds. Though currently featured as a considerable display of student art, the creator—newly graduated Kendal Banks—was inspired to construct the tipi with intentions of using it as a small home some day.
Staying true to the Native American minimalist methodology, it took Banks six days alone to hand peel the 20 poles. Using mineral spirits, linseed oil and callused hands, Banks varnished the poles for protection from element exposure and to ensure longevity.
Erection of the structure proved tricky. Bringing the poles to counterbalance with little frictional stability resulted in a series of attempts and, in one case, a complete collapse of the tipi. Banks recalls “[t]he most difficult part was trying to create the right distance between the tripod poles and aiming them to the North, South and East.”
In the center is a shrine comprised of animal bones, copper leaves and seashells—assembled by friend Jenna Manchengo. The decorative contents help give off something of an Old West feel to the otherwise bare-framed structure. To Banks, these contents are a tribute to the cyclical nature of life.
While de-installation of the tipi is imminent, Banks expects it will soon stand tall again. The application of a canvas shelter will be a daring new advent, but she “will luckily have help from some very experienced tipi creators.”
A brief video revealing the preparation and construction process behind Banks’ tipi project is on display in the Philip J. Steele Gallery.