I can't remember when I decided to be an artist. I always knew I would be. The only classes I remember in high school were art and journalism. I did the cartoon for the student newspaper and lived for art class. I left high school in Great Bend, Kansas two weeks early, leaving a self-addressed, stamped envelope for my diploma and headed for Denver to Colorado Institute of Art, a commercial art school. I had picked up counsel somewhere: "If you are going to be an artist, you've got to eat." I did a two-year course in commercial art.
At the end of the course, I took off to backpack through Europe for three months where I had the opportunity to meet Salvador Dali and Madame Gala. Madame Gala asked me "Where are you from and what are you doing here?" When I told her that I had come from Denver to see the museums of Europe she said: "Go back to Denver, look at one painting, and go walk in the snow.” I took her advice but spent the next 40 years in commercial art and advertising.
I woke up one morning in 2014 and realized that I had not drawn anything other than ad layouts and logos in fifteen years and set out to change that.
At one of my first art shows the curator told me that my work looked promising but I needed to focus because “If you do everything, people will remember nothing.” His advice, along with that of Madame Gala, have been the guidelines I have followed since.
I had been selling yearbooks to Indian high schools on reservations just before making this turn and decided Native portraits would be my focus. As I began to study and learn, I realized it was a bigger story... the story of indigenous people worldwide who had been and are still being displaced by "progress". I read somewhere that it's a three-legged stool of environment, social justice, and indigenous peoples. The way people treat the earth is the way they will treat people... as disposable. I would like to think these portraits allow my subjects to tell their story.
I hope that these pieces might give a voice to those who have been silenced, give eyes to those who do not see and give a heart to those who just don''t want to care.
It's been said that "Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed."
Perhaps, in some small way, my work can comfort those who remember and disturb those who would like to forget.