5 Contemporary Native American Artists You Should Know
Native American art has developed over centuries, tracing back to cave paintings, stonework and earthenware. Typically linked to a deep connection with spirituality and Mother Earth, Native American art comes in many different styles and forms to reflect the unique cultures of diverse tribes — including beadwork, jewelry, weaving, basketry, pottery, carvings, kachinas, masks, totem poles, drums, flutes, pipes, dolls and more.
Artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, have fallen in love with and been influenced by Native American art, and some traditional Native artists are connecting their work with pop culture in the mainstream. Merritt Johnson, a multi-disciplinary artist affiliated with the Blackfeet and Kanienkehaka, has stated that most people think of “beads and feathers” when they hear the term “Native American art.” There are many contemporary Native artists breaking through these misconceptions with a variety of art forms; here’s a look at five.
Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1974, and raised on the Onandaga Reservation, Hyde juxtaposes 21st century pop culture images with symbols and themes from his Native American heritage. His vibrant, satirical, graphic paintings seek to dismantle stereotypes of Native American culture and replicate what he refers to as “the collective unconsciousness of the 21st century.”
Of Apsáalooke (Crow) affiliation and born in Billings, Montana in 1981, Red Star is known for her funny, but biting self-portraits that poke fun at tendencies to misrepresent Native American history. Employing photography to navigate her experience growing up on the Crow Indian Reservation, juxtaposed with her experience of mainstream contemporary society, Red Star uses materials like Target-brand Halloween costumes and inflatable animals in her work.
A photographer and storyteller affiliated with the Tulalip and Swinomish, Wilbur has traveled to over 300 sovereign nations to depict the vast diversity within and between indigenous communities. By taking portrait-style photographs of tribal citizens across the country, she hopes to reclaim the Native American image, and to effectually change the way that Native Americans are represented.
Pratt, of Cheyenne and Arapaho affiliation, is considered one of the leading forensic artists in the United States. Harvey has completed thousands of witness description drawings and hundreds of soft tissue reconstructions, having spent more than 50 years in law enforcement. Just recently, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian announced that Pratt’s Warriors’ Circle of Honor was the winning design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
Greeves, who grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, is known primarily for her use of traditional Kiowa beading. An art form learned from her Kiowa grandmother, Greeves’ figures are adorned with both traditional and contemporary clothing items, as a commentary on being a Native woman in the modern world. Her work appears in numerous public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Heard Museum and more.