The Gift from Joseph Beuys

Northern Arizona University Museum of Art, 2008

Materials: wooden crate, prepared coyote specimen, FedEx shipping label

In the spring of 2005, I facilitated the Friday Forum, a visiting artist program for the School of Art at NAU. During one Friday morning session, a colleague, who was presenting his work, was asked if there was any art that he did not appreciate or like. He answered that as far as he was concerned, the artist (whose name, he could not remember) who had once brought a coyote into a gallery. The students, then immediately turned and looked at me to see my response, because two years earlier I had brought in a coyote as part of my installation, Conversing with Coyote, for the faculty show. I interpreted my colleagues’ response not as a knock on my work, but as a slap to Joseph Beuys’ important 1974 action piece Coyote, I Like America and America Likes Me.

When I brought in the coyote for The Gift from Joseph Beuys for the faculty show, little did I know the uproar it would cause and that the Director of the NAU Art Museum would try to have it censored. Little did I know the further implications and connotations, and the power of Canis latrans, the trickster.