An Island For 2 Axe Heads, A String Of Beads & Some Nails


This artwork was was a reaction to and representation of an article in the New York Times reporting on the government announcing the dismantling of the coast guard from governors island.

The article explains that the island was initially purchased by the Dutch from the Manahatas peoples for two axe heads, a string of beads and some nails and is now valued at 500 million dollars.

The article goes on present a number of different proposals by citizens as to its future use. My undeclared proposal is obviously return it to the Manahatas people.

The piece is a conglomeration of elements gathered from visiting the site from a distance on the Staten Island ferry: photographs of the island, items found on Staten Island beach, the original New York Times article, plus a timely email, a story about current land grabbing fears.


Date: Tue, 28 Nov 1995 23:24:53 -0500 (EST)

From: Simon Penny <>

Subject: Fwd: astronauts



———- Forwarded message begins here ———-

About 1966 or so, a NASA team doing work for the Apollo moon mission took the astronauts near Tuba City where the terrain of the Navajo Reservation looks very much like the Lunar surface. With all the trucks and large vehicles were two large figures that were dressed in full Lunar spacesuits.

Near by a Navajo sheep herder and his son where watching the strange creatures walk about, occasionally being tended by personnel. The two Navajo people were noticed and approached by the NASA personnel.

Since the man did not know English, his son asked for him what the strange creatures were and the NASA people told them that they are just men that are getting ready to go to the moon. The man became very excited and asked if he could send a message to the moon with the astronauts.

The NASA personnel thought this was a great idea so they rustled up a tape recorder. After the man gave them his message they asked his son to translate. His son would not.

Later, they tried a few more people on the reservation to translate and every person they asked would chuckle and then refuse to translate. Finally, with cash in hand someone translated the message,


“Watch out for these guys, they come to take your land.”


–Charles Phillip Whitedog, Ojibway and Network Manager Multimission Ground

Systems Office (Mission Control), Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

Other Projects

Public Art

  1. Living Waters of Larimer, 2012-2016
  2. Permaculture Orchard, 2011
  3. One Mile Garden, 2008—present
  4. WeGrow, 2004-2006
  5. Listen to the South Side, 2000-2004
  6. Nine Mile Run Greenway Project, 1996-2000
  7. Urban Semi-Wilderness Area, 1994-1998
  8. Barletta’s News, 1994
  9. Commemorative Monument to Native Americans, 1993
  10. Water Rites: A Domestic Arrangement, 1991
  11. Monument to the Fall of the Television Evangelists, 1988


  1. Still Life #9
  2. The NEW R5 Travel Agency, 2008
  3. Following in My Father’s Footsteps, 2003
  4. An Island For 2 Axe Heads, A String..., 1996
  5. Eco-Mobile Home/Office Entertainment System, 1993
  6. The Persian Gulf Bowl, 1992
  7. As We Turn with the World, 1991
  8. It’s Always Greener on the Greener side, OR..., 1990
  9. The Pantheozone: Temple To The Ozone, 1989


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  2. One Tree EcoArt Proposal, 2007
  3. Greening the Andy Warhol Museum: It’s for the..., 2007
  4. 3 Sisters Garden, 2003
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  6. Greening Purnell: Site-Specific Sculpture Proposal to Integrate Nature..., 2000