04 December 2008

Injun Ninjas: A portrait study inspired by Native American arts

My friend Micky had one of those classic Stetsons from back in the day and I saw an amazing drawing of a Navajo Man sitting.
The forms elegant reminiscent of earlier times and those silhouettes made famous by the Taos Painters. My model,friend and Muse,Rex Bizahaloni and I have collaborated on various projects over the years. We enjoy the collaboration and pour over books and look for additional props. We are often inspired by an object, or a story. These are just the raw images I begin with. I imagine them in sepia, and eventually as photo-paintings on canvas. I also have wanted to make a portrait of how I imagine someone from the ancient puebloan cultures might dress. It still has yet to evolve to where I see it in my minds eye, but it's a beginning. I also wanted to mix in elements of TC Cannon, the 70's pop colors, the modern and the classic,bold patterns have always caught my eye. We've talked about this idea for over a year. It's been a long time since we both shot in the studio. After all the documentary work in Mexico I found I had to change gears, and wrap my head around the space. Sometimes I really do wonder how and what I'll do. But then it's like drawing or writing, you just have to begin. Maybe it will work and maybe it will spur me on to another idea. This set explores some of the cliche archetypes of the Native American with our own spin-ideally I want to do another set with Rex's hair in a traditional Navajo style.
Rex is like my brother. He has helped me teach art to kids on the rez, has been my cook assistant on a Grand Canyon River trip, he is a traditional dancer, and artist. We both worked at the same downtown cafe at different times. We are familia and
I am always honored to have him model for me. It is a great way to explore history and learn from the past. We honor those who've gone before us whose light still inspires us in our creative play and work.

Here's some examples of TC Cannon and the Taos Painters, and another link exploring Native American Art.

T. C. Cannon (1946-1978)
Collector #2
Hasinai/Gaigwa (Caddo/Kiowa)
"The beauty of living a solitary existence is that you never have anyone to blame. The discipline of the late afternoon studio and early morning writing table are my only points of reference for days on end. My interpretations of what I see, hear and dream require small rooms devoid of mortal voice, whether heroic or absurd!"

William Wallo and John Pickard, T.C. Cannon -- Native American: A New View of the West, (Oklahoma City: National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, 1990).
1970, acrylic on canvas
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Gift of Harrison Eiteljorg, acc. 94.11.1

I have also been inspired by Helen Hardin. Memories of her float up from the past. I met her when I was a child and I remember thinking how beautiful she was and that she was a painter who was passionate. I have thought about her over the years when I begin to paint. Her images speak more to me now as I begin to explore the symbols and myths that connect my home in Mexico and my home at the base of the sacred mountain here in Flagstaff. I look at pictographs and try to imagine how can I incorporate their language and symbolism into my work so it may not be cliche; I seek for a deeper meaning and want to connect the past to the future. I wonder sometimes if it is correct for me to paint or interpret these historic marks; I feel I need to learn as much as I can and to look to these artists and learn from them. They have gone but their art still speaks. How does one translate a poem? I suppose one has to feel it in ones gut and respond with one's heart. Theirs weren't an easy life. But they left us images that are courageous as they are beautifully seen.
Here's a tribute to Helen Hardin I found.

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