Notice: The Autry will close at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 24.

About the Artists

Tony Abeyta

Navajo, Born 1965

Tony Abeyta is an award-winning contemporary artist who works in mixed-media painting. He graduated with an M.F.A. from New York University and holds an honorary doctorate from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He currently works in Santa Fe and Berkeley, California. His work is included in several prominent institutions, including the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles; the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California; the Denver Art Museum; the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana; the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Abeyta often focuses on painting the emotional experience one finds in the New Mexico landscapes. “There exists a rhythm in the land where I was born. I spend a lot of time deciphering the light, the cascades of mesas into canyon, the marriage between earth and sky, the light as it constantly changes at whim, the intensity of rock formations, and the sage and chamisa that accent this poetic experience, unlike anywhere else I have seen. I am beckoned to remember it and then to paint it.”

Dugan Aguilar

Northern Paiute/Maidu/Pit River (Achomawi), 1947–2018

Dugan Aguilar was a celebrated photographer, known for his expressive portraits of Native people in California. He graduated from California State University in Fullerton and later served in the military, earning him honors from his Maidu community. Aguilar had many exhibitions at several institutions within California, including the Autry Museum of the American West, and his work has been featured in many publications.

Inspired by Ansel Adams, Aguilar referred to his black-and-white images of Indigenous people and places as “environmental portraiture.” He once remarked, “I can only say that the photographer wolf has bitten my heart and is deep within me. I have a passion for taking pictures.”

Linda Aguilar

Chumash, Born 1948

Linda Aguilar is an exceptional artist who uses traditional techniques to create her unique baskets. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her work has earned her numerous fellowships and residencies. Her basketry is included in the collections of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as in many prominent institutions, including the Autry Museum of the American West.

Using diverse materials such as dentalium, horsehair, waxed thread, and woodpecker scalps, she often references ceremonial life in Indigenous California while adding components of Native life in the 21st century. According the artist, “When people tell me to do something one way or expect me to do something one way, I often do it another.”

Rick Bartow

Wiyot, Mad River Band, 1946–2016

Rick Bartow was considered one of the most important artists in the contemporary Native art world. Following military service in Vietnam he established his art career, earning numerous awards for his painting, drawings, prints, and sculptures. Bartow’s work was the subject of more than 100 solo exhibitions, including many retrospectives, and can be found in more than 100 public collections.

Using a variety of mediums, Bartow’s work can be described as both deeply personal and culturally relevant. He often uses human-animal combinations that reference creation stories and shape-shifting, highlighting our connections to the living world. Bartow stated, “I cannot explain the urge to create. I usually apologize for it as it robs me of normalcy. I’m uncomfortable with it, as it’s a bit like living in front of a mirror.”

Robert (Bob) Benson

Tsnungwe, Born 1948

Bob Benson is a leading figure among artists in the northwestern California art world. He was a well-respected teacher for more than 30 years at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California, as well as a curator of Native art. Benson’s body of work includes plein air landscapes, pattern paintings using alder-bark dye, and carved sculptures that reference the geometric design of Native ceremonial objects.

While incorporating certain aspects of ceremonial and traditional cultural practices, Benson also emphasizes the natural world and his sense of his surroundings. He states, “I am an heir to an ancient belief system that involves the earth, weather, plant and animal life, and all the features of the natural landscape.”

George Blake

Hupa/Yurok, Born 1944

George Blake is a celebrated artist known for his contemporary and traditional art and methods. After traveling as a missionary and serving in the army, Blake attended the University of California, Davis, where he focused on ceramics. With his community in Hoopa Valley, he learned from tribal elders how to make traditional objects such as dugout canoes, sinew-backed bows, and ceremonial regalia. In 1991, Blake received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. Later, he was curator of the Hoopa Tribal Museum and received an honorary doctorate from Humboldt State University in Arcata. His works are featured in such prominent institutions as the Autry Museum of the American West, the Crocker Art Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Blake’s contemporary studio art consists of assemblage, ceramics, and wood carvings. He often uses humor in his work to address important environmental and social issues that affect Native people. However, for his traditional pieces he adheres to earlier methodologies: “I wanted to do what the old people did . . . I make elk-antler purses . . . I could make them as different as I want . . . But I don’t. I just like the way they were done a long time ago. And I just keep making them.”

Richard Bluecloud Castaneda

Pima Maricopa from Salt River Reservation, Born 1970

Richard Castaneda is a multi-talented photographer and printmaker. In 2008 he cofounded the Indigenous Arts Coalition, which started as a student collective at San Francisco Art Museum and now supports Indigenous art exhibitions in the Bay Area. Castaneda also teaches photography workshops for Native youth and documented the Standing Rock–Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2016.

Castaneda’s work explores different notions of identity with alternative processes, creating insightful and often poignant images. In his own words, “I am interested in the contemporary Native identity and the ways in which we culturally and aesthetically adapt to mainstream environments. . . . I am intrigued by the fragmented aesthetics of cross-cultural identity and the various personas of the culturally displaced.”

Gerald Clarke Jr.

Cahuilla, Born 1967

Gerald Clarke is a renowned mixed-media artist, recognized for his performances, installations, videos, and conceptual art. As an educator, he taught at the Idyllwild Arts Academy and East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. Currently, Clarke is a professor of Native American studies at the University of California, Riverside, and lives and works at his family’s ranch on the Cahuilla Band of Indians reservation. Clarke’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and can also be found in the permanent collections of several prominent institutions, including the Autry Museum of the American West.

In his work, Clarke often addresses contemporary aspects of Native life, including cultural identity, loss of ancestral lands, and environmental threats. In his own words, “I am culturally active and strive to use my work to express what I think and feel as a contemporary Indigenous person. . . . What I do is try to put my perspective out there and into the mix of contemporary thought. I do not feel that a Native perspective is out of date. On the contrary, it might be exactly what the world needs to consider in this day and age.”

George Blake

Hupa/Yurok, Born 1944

George Blake is a celebrated artist known for his contemporary and traditional art and methods. After traveling as a missionary and serving in the army, Blake attended the University of California, Davis, where he focused on ceramics. With his community in Hoopa Valley, he learned from tribal elders how to make traditional objects such as dugout canoes, sinew-backed bows, and ceremonial regalia. In 1991, Blake received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. Later, he was curator of the Hoopa Tribal Museum and received an honorary doctorate from Humboldt State University in Arcata. His works are featured in such prominent institutions as the Autry Museum of the American West, the Crocker Art Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Blake’s contemporary studio art consists of assemblage, ceramics, and wood carvings. He often uses humor in his work to address important environmental and social issues that affect Native people. However, for his traditional pieces he adheres to earlier methodologies: “I wanted to do what the old people did . . . I make elk-antler purses . . . I could make them as different as I want . . . But I don’t. I just like the way they were done a long time ago. And I just keep making them.”

Dalbert Castro

Nisenan, Born 1934

Dalbert Castro is a well-known artist and painter whose style and imagery describe the culture and worldview of his community through creation stories and legends. As the grandson of a Maidu headman, Castro learned many stories when he was a child. Later, after his service in the U.S. Navy, he pursued art at the suggestion of his wife. Since then, Castro’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and can be found in many important private collections.

Castro mainly uses acrylics and watercolors to evoke meaningful imagery as well as historical events. The artist states, “You see, that’s the way with us. We have these old stories that explain our past, our land, and our ways. This is our history.”

Frank Day

Konkow Maidu, 1902–1976

A celebrated artist and educator, Frank Day was primarily recognized for his oil paintings, which provide a narrative of Maidu history and culture. As a young person he learned different aspects of his culture, including language and songs from his father, who was one of the last traditional leaders of the Konkow Maidu community. Later, he attended Bacone College in Muscogee, Oklahoma. During his life, Day interpreted Maidu worldviews with colorful imagery that combined legend, oral tradition, history, and other forms of Indigenous knowledge. He also influenced a generation of Native artists through his teaching and friendship. Today, his work can be found in such prominent institutions as the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

Day was concerned about the disappearance of tribal knowledge, and during his career made more than 200 paintings documenting the rich culture of his community. In his own words, “Once in a while I take up color and I paint a little bit because if I do not do this, all things will be forgotten.”

Lewis deSoto

Cahuilla, Born 1954

Lewis deSoto is an award-winning multimedia artist, known primarily for his photographs, installations, and public art. He received a B.A. from the University of California, Riverside, and earned his M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California. Later, he became a professor of art at San Francisco State University. Over his career, he has earned numerous awards and fellowships from a variety of institutions, including the National Endowment for the Arts, and his work has been featured both nationally and internationally.

In his work, deSoto explores aspects of religion and environment along with contemporary issues that promote Indigenous worldviews. He states, “A new cosmology is needed at this time for Eurocentrist cultures. Cultures in general inhabit borrowed and invented world-explanations. The Cahuilla viewpoint is still alive and should be added to the fabric of our understanding.”

Mercedes Dorame

Tongva, Born 1981

Mercedes Dorame is a talented contemporary artist who uses photography and installations to engage with ideas of cultural reconstruction in Native communities. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and earned her M.F.A. at the San Francisco Art Institute. She has received many grants and fellowships, and her art is shown nationally and internationally. Her work can be found in numerous publications and museum collections, including those of the Hammer Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Dorame also uses her art to evoke Indigenous memories of place and time, bringing attention to the often violent transformation of the land. She comments, “I’m haunted by what I’ve witnessed: my ancestors being dug up, finding skulls crushed by jackhammers and being handed bags of cranium dust, all for tract-housing developments. So there is no resolution, just a sadness that lingers.”

Harry Fonseca

Nisenan Maidu/Native Hawaiian/Portuguese, 1946–2006

Harry Fonseca was a world-renowned artist who used his drawing, prints, and paintings to both express his love of Maidu culture and share his experiences as a traditional dancer and active community member. Fonseca studied under the late Frank LaPena at California State University in Sacramento and learned about his culture from his uncle Henry Azbill and artist Frank Day. He then accessed this wealth of knowledge to artistically explore Maidu ceremonies and creation stories. His work has been shown nationally and internationally, and can be found in several prominent institutions, including the Autry Museum of the American West, the Crocker Art Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

As an adult, Fonseca became more involved with his Native community, participating in many tribal ceremonies and other cultural events. In his own words, “I found out more about my Native American background and became involved with the dances and the whole traditional base. That really gave me a foundation, not only for me but for my artwork as well. It’s still here. It’s still very, very strong.”

L.frank

Tongva/Acjachemen, Born 1952

L.frank is a well-known artist and activist who explores alternative views of history and culture through her paintings and illustrations. She is also a noted basketweaver, tribal scholar, and writer. After serving in the military, she joined the American Indian art world in Northern California, publishing her graphic column “Acorn Soup” in News From Native California. L.frank has served on the boards for the California Indian Basketweavers Association and Advocates for Indigenous California Languages. Her work has been exhibited at American Indian Contemporary Arts, the C. N. Gorman Museum, and the Maidu Museum and Historic Site and can be found in the permanent collection at the National Museum of the American Indian.

L.frank is a long-time activist and has received numerous awards for her dedicated community involvement; she is also active in creative awareness for issues facing the Native Two-Spirit community. Referring to the annual Two-Spirit powwow in San Francisco, she states, “There are times when we can feel excluded at powwows. If a young woman wants to dance in the male category, she’s often met with derision if she’s allowed at all. This powwow is gently cracking open those gender roles to accept what used to be always accepted in Indian time.”

Richard Glazer Danay

Caughnawaga Mohawk, Born 1942

Richard Glazer Danay is a well-regarded multimedia artist whose work includes paintings and assemblage. His most recognizable works are made from hard hats, which reference his former trade as an ironworker. Glazer Danay graduated from California State University, Northridge, and holds two M.F.A degrees from California State University, Chico, and the University of California, Davis. He was the Rupert Costo Chair of American Indian Affairs at the University of California, Riverside, and taught at California State University, Long Beach, where he earned the title of professor emeritus. He also served as a commissioner on the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. His art has been featured in many important institutions including the British Museum, the Heard Museum, and the Peabody Essex Museum.

Over his life, Glazer Danay’s art has been inspired by his various occupations, his sense of California, and his Native culture. He states, “I was an iron worker, dishwasher, I worked at the Whisky a Go Go in L.A., I was Dean Martin’s bodyguard. The sixties weren’t a real big influence, more like the fifties, like Hollywood Boulevard, the garishness and the excess. The neon signs.”

Bob Haozous

Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, Born 1943

Bob Haozous is a world-renowned artist working primarily in sculpture and large-scale public works. The son of famed artist Allan Houser, Haozous was close with his grandfather, who encouraged his grandson to change his last name back to the original, unanglicized form. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Haozous earned his B.F.A. from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and can be found in such prominent institutions as the British Museum, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

As a Native artist, Haozous explores the meaning of Native identity, and challenges contemporary notions by centering the human experience within traditional culture using Native imagery, especially Apache. In his words, “Current definitions and identifications of being Native American must be challenged and reevaluated before a genuine contemporary and meaningful identity can emerge. The infrastructure of this self-description must use an honest portrayal of our contemporary human condition and reliance on traditional philosophical cultural knowledge as a guiding reference.”

Spencer Keeton Cunningham

Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Born 1983

Spencer Keeton Cunningham is a talented contemporary multimedia artist whose drawings, paintings, murals, prints, and videos have traveled both nationally and internationally. Cunningham graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute, and since then he has had exhibitions in China, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and many other cities and countries. His work can also be found at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Cunningham uses his art to address Indigenous issues, environmental conditions, and local issues, such as gentrification around the Bay Area. According to the artist, “My work in painting, sculpture, video, and audio in styles from illustrative to gestural speaks to, but not solely to, Indigenous rights/identity/commodification but also to environmental issues, endangered species, social justice, and humorous renditions of the tragic or serious.”

Jean LaMarr

Pit River/Paiute, Born 1945

Jean LaMarr is a recognized multimedia artist who is known for her printmaking, paintings, assemblages, videos, and installations. As an involved activist, she attended and earned a B.F.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to teach at several colleges and universities. LaMarr is the founder of the Native American Graphic Workshop in her hometown of Susanville. Her work has been exhibited in many important institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and can be found in the permanent collections of the Crocker Art Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.

LaMarr draws from her experiences from the activist occupations of Alcatraz, Pit River, and Wounded Knee to create art that explores contemporary Native life, addresses negative stereotypes, and celebrates Native culture. She states, “My work focuses on pride in our heritage, because the town I grew up in is very racist. I was proud of being an Indian, but nothing was supportive of this. There was very little community activity, very little ceremony, very little traditional activity. But I knew something was there and felt something had to be done.”

Julian Lang

Karuk, with Wiyot and Konomihu Shasta ancestry, Born 1951

Julian Lang is a well-known, multitalented artist, linguist, storyteller, singer-songwriter, ceremonial leader, and educator. In 1989, he founded the Institute of Native Knowledge as a conceptual project to challenge Eurocentrism. His essays can be found in numerous publications, including News From Native California. As a community leader and activist, Lang has served on the board of the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival. His art includes fine art and video installations that address the loss of Indigenous language and explore topics related to landscape and the environment.

Lang’s art was featured in a prominent place-based exhibition by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and his body of work as both a tribal scholar and self-described “digital creative” continue to serve as an important resource for Native communities. In his own words, “Our knowledge of the ‘Old Ones’ comes to us through oral tradition—through elders but especially through our mythology. For instance, there is a sort of manic drive that overcomes many of us to acquire ‘wealth’; not the kind of wealth promised in the American dream, necessarily, but the kind of wealth that was loved by the Spirit Beings in the beginning of our people.”

Frank LaPena

Nomtipom Wintu, 1937–2019

A world-renowned artist, Frank LaPena was a painter, sculptor, and printmaker. Over his life, he became a published writer and poet and was also a revered ceremonial leader and singer. As a student, he dedicated himself to art and had his first solo exhibition in 1960. His work has been shown nationally and internationally and can be found in the permanent collections of several prominent institutions, including the Crocker Art Museum, the Heard Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

At the epicenter of American Indian fine arts and ceremonial revival movements, LaPena was a dedicated community activist, devoted mentor and treasured friend to generations of Native artists who were heavily influenced by his teachings and artistic style. In his own words, “I believe that a man should be a teacher all his life, learning and giving. Understanding can take place if we as individuals can find out who and what we are. I believe that the values of Indian culture hold answers for all people.”

Linda Lomahaftewa

Hopi/Choctaw, Born 1947

Linda Lomahaftewa is an award-winning multimedia artist whose paintings and printmaking reference Hopi culture and the natural environment. After graduating from the Institute of American Indian Arts, she earned a B.F.A and an M.F.A from the San Francisco Art Institute. Later, she taught at Sonoma State University and the University of California, Berkeley, and then returned to teach at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Lomaheftewa received the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Power of Art Award, and her work can be found in many prominent institutions, including the National Museum of the American Indian.

Lomahaftewa’s work is a colorful expression of the Hopi Way and the persistence of both individual and cultural memory. She writes, “My imagery comes from being Hopi and remembering shapes and colors from the ceremonies and from landscape. I associate a special power and respect, a sacredness, with these colors and shapes, and this carries over into my work.”

George Longfish

Seneca/Tuscarora, Born 1942

George Longfish is a multimedia artist who is well known for his paintings, sculpture, and assemblage. He earned his B.F.A. and M.F.A. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He taught at the University of California, Davis, and later became director of the C. N. Gorman Museum. In addition to teaching, he has written several critical essays on Native art and his been a strong voice against the stereotyping of Indian art. His work has been exhibited widely and can be found in the permanent collections of the Crocker Art Museum, the Heard Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Longfish’s art blends personal and cultural issues, including relationships, hardships, healing, and spiritual searches. His artistic approach often includes humor and political commentary. In his own words, “The more we are able to own our religious, spiritual, and survival information, and even language, the less we can be controlled. . . . The greatest lesson that we can learn is that we can bring our spirituality and warrior information from the past and see that it still works.”

Judith Lowry

Maidu/Pit River, born 1948 

Judith Lowry is a renowned artist known primarily for her paintings depicting important stories from her Native culture. She graduated from Humboldt State University and received a fellowship from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Since then, she has illustrated a children’s book, created art installations, and shown her work in numerous exhibitions. Lowry also helped found the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project, which is dedicated to the preservation of Native culture. Her work can be found in many prominent institutions including the Autry Museum of the American West, the Crocker Art Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Peabody Essex Museum.

Lowry’s work is influenced by Native American people in contemporary culture as well as the stories from her Native community. She states, “There is one distinction I have to make. I am not a painter. I paint. I am a storyteller.”

James Luna

Paómkawichum (Luiseño)/Ipi (Diegueño)/Mexican American, 1950–2018

James Luna was a celebrated multimedia artist whose photographs, performances, installations, videos, sculptures, and prints earned him recognition for his contemporary perspective on the difficult histories of many Native communities. For his work, he received an honorary doctorate from the Institute of American Indian Arts and was also awarded distinguished fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Native Arts and Cultures Fund. He taught art at the University of California, Davis, and was a visiting faculty member at Stanford University in 2017. In addition to national exhibitions, Luna participated in the Venice Biennale Arte in 2005. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the C. N. Gorman Museum, the National Museum of American Indian, and the Oakland Museum of California.

Luna’s art engages with such topics as colonialism, violence, and sexuality, and challenges outside notions of authenticity and ethnic identity. In his own words, “What hasn’t changed is that we’re still invisible. Name a major museum that has put on a contemporary Indian art survey or presented a one-man show of a Native artist. And you know, I’ve seen us go through the multicultural movement. But when’s our moment?”

Leatrice Mikkelsen

Dineh (Navajo)/Wyandotte, 1937–2016

Leatrice Mikklesen was a painter and mixed-media artist whose paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints were inspired by Dineh cosmology, stories, and culture. As a young person, she took ink-painting classes during World War II at the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona for interned Japanese Americans, and went on to earn a B.F.A and M.F.A. at San Francisco State University. There, she was inspired by the life and art of Mabel McKay, one of California’s most honored weavers, as well as Karuk painter Clara Barney, Japanese brushwork artist Kazuaki Tanahashi, and surrealist painters Paul Klee and Max Ernst. Her work has been exhibited extensively, including an exhibition at the Piante Gallery in 2013 with fellow contemporary Native artists Frank LaPena and Brian Tripp.

As an artist and activist, Mikkelsen advocated for Native people and sought to reclaim and amplify Native voices. She said, “We should honor our teachers. This life is whole because of the elders.”

Geri Montano

Diné/Comanche, Born 1961

Geri Montano is a well-known contemporary artist, recognized for her mixed-media art that explores sociopolitical and feminist issues. She received her formal art education at the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated with a B.F.A. in interdisciplinary arts: drawing, painting, and sculpture. She has received several grants, including two from the San Francisco Arts Commission, for her creative exhibitions and community engagement projects. Her work has been featured in several solo and group exhibitions and can be found in the permanent collection of the Crocker Art Museum.

Montano’s art addresses the difficult histories of Native American women and girls, and critically examines contemporary and historical practices against these women, including sex trafficking and the isolation of boarding school students. In her own words, “Being a woman artist of multiracial and predominantly Native American heritage, I am inspired to explore and share my cultural heritage through my art. I create provocative images juxtaposing innocence and seduction.”

Mooshka (Kevin Cata)

Tewa/Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo),1965–2018

Mooshka was a talented contemporary artist known for his installations, assemblages, and mixed-media sculpture influenced by his Pueblo heritage. As an artist he worked under the pseudonym Mooshka, but his Native American name was Ca Pin. Both the physical process of collecting found objects as well as the spiritual, emotional, and personal meaning of assembling them into his kachinas was very important to him. He saw his work as a natural blending of the modern and the traditional. While his kachinas retain some traditional characteristics, many of his dolls wear western clothing such as Converse sneakers and are adorned with everyday objects like smoke masks, and in one case an American flag. 

He stated, “My primary focus has always been the creation of beauty from objects and discarded items. . . . I hope to inspire an awareness of the various cultures that make up our community and pride in one’s own heritage.” 

A resident artist at Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, his work earned him the Visions From the New California Award from the Alliance of Artists Communities, a group dedicated to supporting outstanding visual arts voices from diverse communities. In 2016, Mooshka’s work was exhibited at San Francisco State University. 

Catherine Nelson-Rodriguez

Luiseño/Choctaw, Born 1953

Catherine Nelson Rodriguez is a gifted artist whose art is highly personal, reflecting her difficult family history and the harsh realities of life in some Native communities. Reeling from a series of tragedies, Nelson-Rodriguez learned to paint as a creative outlet to express her feelings of alienation as a young woman. Since then, her art has been shown in several exhibitions, including at American Indian Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, and the Robert Freeman Art Gallery on the Rincon Indian Reservation. Her work can also be found in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Nelson-Rodriguez’s art describes a traumatic existence with an unusual sense of intensity. But still, she repeatedly returns to her paintings, stating “I’ve been beat up, ditched, widowed, and I’m bipolar, but I try to tell the truth in my work, describe what I’ve gone through.”

Karen Noble

Chimariko/Karuk, Born 1955

Karen Noble is renowned artist and painter recognized for her brilliant use of color and composition in works that reference her community’s traditional stories. She is largely self-taught, although she received some formal art education at Humboldt State University. In the 1970s and 1980s, Noble was involved in the emerging art scene in Eureka, and since then her work has been featured in exhibitions at American Indian Contemporary Arts and the Crocker Art Museum.

Noble’s work often features “Sky People,” the supernatural beings of many Native communities’ creation stories. As an artist, she considers her paintings to be part of a spiritual mission. In her own words, “To be an artist is to be a channel for a higher intelligence that may manifest itself on our earthly plane. One could call it God, Creator, or the universal spirit. It works through me in order to make the viewers [of my art] more aware of the spirit within them.”

Jamie Okuma

Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock, Born 1977

An award-winning artist, Jamie Okuma is highly skilled in beadwork, mixed-media soft sculpture, and most recently, contemporary Native fashion design. As a child, she learned beadwork from her mother, who was a painter and a graphic artist for MCA Records. Later, Okuma attended Palomar College and then the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since then, her creations have been featured in numerous publications and in national and international exhibitions, including a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Her work can also be found in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Minneapolis Museum of Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Okuma’s artistic skills have allowed her to easily adapt to contemporary fashion design work. Inspired by Native designs and motifs as well as high-end designers, she continues a long tradition of innovation in Native art. According to the artist, “I had been doing dolls, intensive beadwork, and shows for fifteen years and had reached my limit in those fields. I needed a change, and fashion was something I had planned on doing initially before I had such success with my beadwork, so the combination of beadwork familiarity along with a need to be an aspiring fashionista brought me to where I am today with what I call contemporary Native fashion.”

Lyn Risling

Hupa/Karuk/Yurok, Born 1950

Lyn Risling is a well-known artist whose paintings reflect her strong ties to her culture as well as her dedication to renewal of the environment and tribal ceremony in her community. After earning a B.A in art from University of California, Davis, Risling earned her teaching credential and graduate degree from Humboldt State University. Since then, she has received numerous grants for her artwork and her commitment to the community. Her art has been exhibited at American Indian Contemporary Arts, the C. N. Gorman Museum, and the Maidu Museum and Heritage Site and is in the permanent collections of the C. N. Gorman and the Autry Museum of the American West.

Risling’s artwork celebrates Native culture and worldview but often reflects concern for the lands of her ancestors. She calls attention to environmental issues through the lens of Native prophesies and imagery. She states, “My art is inspired by my Native cultures of the Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa peoples of northwestern California. It is a part of a continuum whose roots are strongly connected to the land and heritage of my ancestors. It continues to grow and spiral out and back again, bringing the past, present, and future together through the new creations of timeless images of color and design.”

Cara Romero

Chemehuevi (Southern Paiute), Born 1977

Cara Romero is an award-winning contemporary artist and photographer whose work explores cultural identity, stereotypes, and Native modernity. She attended the University of Houston to study cultural anthropology. Dissatisfied with the program, she pursued photography as a means of expressing Indigenous lifeways and worldviews. Romero’s art can be found at the Autry Museum of the American West, the Crocker Art Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Romero’s experience in documentary photography, film, and editorial photography, blended with her own perspective as a Native woman, has created a visually stunning body of work. She states, “I am deeply committed to making work that addresses Native American social issues and changes the way people perceive Native Americans, especially Native women, in contemporary society. If we want respect, love, and beauty among us and others, we must actively promote it through our art.”

Diego Romero

Cochiti Pueblo, Born 1964

Diego Romero is a renowned artist whose ceramics and printmaking are recognized for their unique blend of traditional Pueblo pottery forms and postcolonial perspective. A third-generation artist, Romero earned his B.F.A. from the Otis College of Art and Design and his M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Later, he became a ceramics instructor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and is in the permanent collections of many prominent national and international institutions, including the British Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Peabody Essex Museum.

Romero’s art playfully engages with anticolonial themes and imagery, addressing difficult histories and contemporary politics from a Native viewpoint. Drawing inspiration from his Pueblo culture, pop culture, and Greek amphorae imagery, his art is both visually intriguing and culturally nuanced. He states, “I always love a good joke, some dark humor, or a good critique of society.”

Firmly positioning his work within an Indigenous visuality, Diego Romero has built a career constructing ceramic vessels that elevate Pueblo life to Olympian stature. A third-generation professional artist, Romero was born and raised in Berkeley, California to a Cochiti father and a non-Native mother. Upon completing high school, he returned to ancestral Pueblo lands and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts, before subsequently attaining degrees from Otis College of Art and Design (BFA) and University of California, Los Angeles (MFA).Since earning an MFA in 1993, Romero has developed an extensive exhibition record with works housed in significant public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cartier Foundation, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum, the British Museum, and the Scottish National Museum.

Working in a narrative style that evokes pre-contact Mimbres pottery, as well as Greek amphorae (two-handled vases) and Anasazi ceramics, Romero’s earthenware bowls and handled-vessels investigate the marginalized status of Indigenous history and society. Evoking the anti-colonial writing of Frantz Fanon, who believes that “the native intellectual who wishes to create an authentic work of art realize[s] that the truths of a nation are in the first place its realities,” Romero states that instead of using Indigenous “tradition” as insulated from historical change, he consciously evokes “the historic as a point of departure to reinterpret the contemporary.” By using historically situated oral traditions as source material, Romero departs visually from the canonical work of Pueblo pottery and instead relies heavily on a narrative style gleaned from comic books and popular culture, specters of a childhood spent mingling in comic bookstores. The resulting composition transcends the materiality of the object and engages the viewer in humorous interplay in which the author’s overt anti-colonial content is seen as non-threatening to audiences and collectors.

The confrontational and subversive nature of the work is commonly overlooked in lieu of Romero’s excellent craftsmanship and artistry. Merging autobiography with narratives of contemporary Indian life and stories of Pueblo resistance to colonial violence, Romero elevates Pueblo and contemporary Indian narratives to the level of the superhero, devices he draws from Greek pottery and comics. When placed into an autobiographical context, his ceramic practice develops further layers of nuance and complexity. This investigatory nature of simultaneously inserting biographical material while interrogating the cross-sections of Indian life enables Romero to transcend the commonly provincial status of contemporary Indian art.

Fritz Scholder

Luiseño, 1937–2005

Fritz Scholder was a world-renowned artist and painter whose work helped bring serious recognition to Native American art. He was introduced to modern painting under noted painter Oscar Howe, and later continued his studies under artist Wayne Thiebaud. Scholder earned his B.F.A. from California State University in Sacramento and his M.F.A. from the University of Arizona, going on to teach at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Scholder’s art was widely exhibited and is in the permanent collections of numerous prominent institutions, including the Crocker Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

With his bold use of color and composition, Scholder’s work aimed to dismantle stereotypes about Native Americans and change the public’s perception of Native identity. Although his art often provoked controversy, he is credited with taking contemporary Native art in an exciting new direction. He stated, “People don’t really like Indians. Oh, they like their own conceptions of the Indian—usually the Plains Indian, romantic and noble and handsome and somehow the embodiment of wisdom and patience. But Indians in America are usually poor, sometimes derelicts outside the value system, living in uncomfortable surroundings. We have really been viewed as something other than human beings by the larger society.”

Rabbett Strickland

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, Born 1949

Rabbett Strickland is a well-known and talented artist and painter whose work reinterprets Ojibwe stories on a monumental scale. As a child, he was surrounded by art; his mother, aunts, and uncles were all painters of mainly landscapes and portraits, while Strickland painted images from Greek mythology. As a young person in San Francisco, he also became interested in Baroque and Renaissance paintings. His work has been exhibited at American Indian Contemporary Arts, San Francisco State University, and can be found in the permanent collection of the Crocker Art Museum.

Strickland is often inspired by his dreams, and his work can be recognized by its often ethereal quality. In his own words, “I have a dream, and I get up in the middle of the night, and then I draw. That is how it starts. It is like a movie. . . . If I don’t get it right the first time, the dream reoccurs. Eventually, when I get it, then it goes away.”

Patrick Swazo Hinds

Tesuque Pueblo, 1924–1974

Patrick Swazo Hinds was a renowned artist and painter whose work combined Native motifs with a modern style that became an expression of his heritage and culture. As a child, he was adopted and moved to California where he pursued his education in art. He attended Hill and Canyon School of Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico; California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland; Mexico City College; and the Art Institute of Chicago. He also served in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War, and later worked as a teacher before becoming a full-time artist. Over his lifetime, Swazo Hinds’s works have been shown in numerous exhibitions, including at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and are in the permanent collections of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the National Museum of the American Indian.

As an important person in the California art scene, Swazo Hinds departed from the traditional style and painted highly abstracted pieces that emphasized his connection to his Pueblo culture, which he visited every summer after his adoption. He stated, “I have worked hard to learn to paint and now I have chosen to paint the Indian . . . and his religion and his culture as I understand it. I can paint an Indian as ugly as I want, because there is pain, there is sorrow, there is suffering. I can paint him beautiful, because that is there, too.”

Brian D. Tripp

Karuk, Born 1945

Brian Tripp is a celebrated artist, painter, sculptor, poet, singer, regalia maker, and activist. Well known for his tireless dedication to his community and to issues of Indigenous sovereignty, he is considered the first contemporary artist to use Indigenous basket-weaving motifs as well as regalia in his paintings, sculpture, and installations. After his military service in Vietnam, Tripp attended Humboldt State University and became an art instructor while still an undergraduate. His work has been exhibited at the American Indian Contemporary Arts, the C. N. Gorman Museum, and the New Museum in New York and can be found in the permanent collections of such prominent institutions as the Crocker Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Oakland Museum of California. In 2018 he received the California Living Heritage Award for his transformative cultural and artistic leadership.

Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie

Diné/Seminole/Muscogee, Born 1954

Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie is a well-known multimedia artist whose photography, sculpture, prints, and videos examine complex issues that relate to Indian country, including the 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts Act, the canonization of Father Junípero Serra, tribal enrollment, and Two-Spirit gender identity. She is the daughter of the late Andrew Tsinhnahjinnie, a celebrated painter and muralist. Tsinhnahjinnie attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and received a B.F.A. in painting at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Later, she received her M.F.A. from University of California, Irvine, and became a professor of Native American studies at the University of California, Davis, and director of the C. N. Gorman Museum. Her work has been exhibited in several important institutions and can be found in the collections of the C. N. Gorman Museum, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Tsinhnahjinnie’s diverse artwork often combines images from the past with abstract imagery and symbols as well as personal references to document her life experience. Although her art is shown widely, she maintains that it is primarily meant for Native people who want to explore identity in a Native landscape.  She once stated, “Identity has been a constant and sometimes unwelcome companion for the past forty years, all of my life.”

Frank Tuttle

Yuki/Wailaki/Konkow Maidu, Born 1957

Frank Tuttle is an acclaimed artist whose work is an exploration of the meaning of tradition in a variety of contemporary contexts. In addition to his works on canvas and paper, Tuttle also experiments with materials and is dedicated to acquiring the traditional manufacturing techniques of his community. He earned his B.A. in painting at Humboldt State University and went on to teach Native American studies and Native American art at Mendocino College in Ukiah. Currently, he is completing his doctorate in clinical psychology. Tuttle’s art has been shown at American Indian Contemporary Arts, the C. N. Gorman Museum, and San Francisco State University. His work can be found in the collections of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the C. N. Gorman Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, and the Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka.

Also a well-known ceremonialist, Tuttle’s art often includes paintings of ceremonial scenes and dances. As a painter he is informed by both Native American and modern art traditions. In his own words, “I enjoy the particular thrill in being able to contrast and compare fragments of the old and new order. There exists a continuum of the tradition of the vision quest in which the new visions, as works of art, are informed by both Indian traditions and the modern art traditions.”

Sponsors

When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California was organized by the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, with support from the United Auburn Indian Community. This presentation at the Autry has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Land Acknowledgment

The Autry Museum of American West acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). We recognize that the Autry Museum and its campuses are located on the traditional lands of Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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