In my native Hoopa language, kiwhliw means “he who paints.” I am a painter. I am also Native American, raised on the Hoopa Valley Reservation in Northern California.
As a young child, I drew the stories I could see in my Hoopa Valley landscape and the stories of our ancestors as told to me by my elders. As I grew and attended school off the reservation, I began to hear stories others tell about Native People. As a young man, I was drawn to a new set of stories: stories I could see in the paintings of the European Impressionists and contemporary Pop artists. I began painting and found in the process a way to weave together the stories of my homeland, the history that others tell about my people, and the mystery I find in the work of artists who came before me.
I often begin with an archival photograph of Native Americans, typically one the photographer intended as a “document of a vanishing race.” I recontextualize the often static, sometimes staged portrait with layers of color, traditional native design and landscapes real and imagined. Sometimes I sample the work of other artists or add unexpected contemporary objects. By juxtaposing these various images, I ask my viewer to reconsider their (mis)understanding of (Indian) art and history.
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