Twisting tradition: Artist puts a modern spin on Native American themes - Albuquerque Journal

Twisting tradition: Artist puts a modern spin on Native American themes

Today we see much of reality through the rectangle of a phone or an iPad, with anything outside the screen cropped from view.

Frank Buffalo Hyde (Onondaga/Nez Perce) investigates that limited perspective through the prism of his Native background with a twist of his own sly humor.

"I-Witness Culture – Eagle Dancer," 2016, acrylic on canvas by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)
“I-Witness Culture – Eagle Dancer,” 2016, acrylic on canvas by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)

“I-Witness Culture,” a series of 14 paintings and three sculptures, opens at Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on Feb. 5. The exhibition will be on view through Jan. 7, 2018.

“He has a unique point of view as to as to the kinds of subjects Native Americans can address,” MIAC curator Valerie Verzuh said. “It’s the world around him and how Native Americans fit into it —— a very contemporary world.”

In “Close Encounters of the Selfie Stick Kind,” 2016, an iPad frames tribal members on horseback, their selfie sticks raised as a UFO hovers.

“Part of my job as an artist is to comment on the times we live in to document them,” he said in a telephone interview from his Santa Fe home. “We’re no longer living in the moment. We’re living in very filtered moments.”

“Eagle Dancer” captures a pueblo dance demonstration as viewed through a cellphone. “Four Dancers” freezes a similar scene of buffalo dancers. A herd of hands cradling cellphones sprouts from the foreground.

"Zombie Nation," 2016, acrylic on canvas, by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)
“Zombie Nation,” 2016, acrylic on canvas, by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)

“Years from now, we’ll say, ‘That’s when phones were hand-held and not embedded in the back of the eye,” Hyde said. “We don’t experience reality directly anymore, but through our cellphones or social media.

“Before, it was the Cold War. Now it’s the Twitter War.”

When Hyde attended his first rock concert – Van Halen – the scene carved some strong sense imagery into his memory.

“It was stinky, and there was weed smoke, and everybody was loud,” he said. “Now instead of enjoying it, people have their phones up and they’re recording and sending it. It’s voyeuristic. It’s like the human hand is technology.

“It’s like anything; it’s about your intent,” Hyde said. “It’s definitely a useful tool. However, it’s at the cost of experience.”

The artist turned his satirical vision to Southwestern tourism in “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” 2016, a portrait of a leaping cheerleader, her hair coiled into traditional Hopi butterfly whorls. It’s Native America-meets-tourism-meets-grunge-meets-Americana homage.

“The Hopi maiden has become this icon of ‘Come to the Southwest’,” Hyde said. “In my imagination, the Hopi maiden was a cheerleader saying, ‘Come to the Southwest.’ I’ve always been fascinated by the Nirvana cheerleaders (from the 1991 “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video). They’re enigmatic of the time. I used the same colors in the Hopi cheerleader.”

"A Tribe Called Red Coats," 2016, acrylic on canvas by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)
“A Tribe Called Red Coats,” 2016, acrylic on canvas by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)

At first glance, “Tribe Called Red Coats” seems to satirize Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton by pasting the Sex Pistols logo across their smiling faces. But Hyde uses the image to dive deeply into Native American history. Beneath this updated version of the punk band’s “God Save the Queen” single lurks centuries of colonization.

“It was the ultimate symbol of nonconformity” Hyde said of the group’s logo. “I thought it would be fun to update that with the newest royal family. The British Empire has a long history of colonizing Native cultures all over the world.”

"They Kill Chiefs Don't They," 2016, acrylic on canvas by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)
“They Kill Chiefs Don’t They,” 2016, acrylic on canvas by Frank Buffalo Hyde. (SOURCE: The Museum Of Indian Arts And Culture)

Hyde courts even more controversy in 2016’s “They Kill Chiefs Don’t They,” with the famous image of Jacqueline Kennedy crawling from the rear of the limousine when her husband was assassinated.

“In my mind, that is when America totally lost its innocence,” he said. “For the commander in chief to be killed in front of everybody, it’s horrifying. It’s right up there with 9/11. The U.S. government has killed our children, so we already knew what the U.S. government was capable of. Being a person from an oppressed culture, it was easy for me to believe” in a government conspiracy.

Verzuh is already planning a public comments book.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Milne Stadium named for a long-time superintendent and visionary
Arts
Friday night lights have illuminated the ... Friday night lights have illuminated the city's first high school stadium for decades. ...
2
ALT brings Simon's 'The Odd Couple' to the stage
Arts
Oscar is a slob. Felix is ... Oscar is a slob. Felix is fastidious. What more can you say about "The Odd Couple?"

3
On canvas and on skin
Arts
Native artist/tattooist creates fantasy world of ... Native artist/tattooist creates fantasy world of eerie surrealism
4
Jonathan Franzen dreams big, goes deep with 'Crossroads'
Arts
Jonathan Franzen dreams big. His newest ... Jonathan Franzen dreams big. His newest novel, "Crossroads," arrives with an audible thud on readers ...
5
Jewish Book Fest authors draw on history and hope
Arts
Eight authors give virtual talks about ... Eight authors give virtual talks about their books in the 2021 Fall Je ...
6
Soprano finds role of Violetta 'a challenge' as Opera ...
Arts
Singing makes Sarah Asmar bubble.The Connecticut-based ... Singing makes Sarah Asmar bubble.The Connecticut-based soprano will sing the role of t ...
7
Exhibit uses art to reclaim stories and memories of ...
Arts
With the pandemic still raging and ... With the pandemic still raging and election results still disputed, maps have acquired a central pre ...
8
Pansies bring winter color to barrel containers
Arts
Q. I have two half barrels ... Q. I have two half barrels at the entrance to my patio home that get sun until around 2 p.m. during ...
9
Extreme trails the big attraction of the Las Cruces ...
Arts
For most intrepid four-wheelers, the journey ... For most intrepid four-wheelers, the journey is the thing. Especially if it involves climbing over m ...