In Santa Fe this afternoon we saw a fantastic exhibit of work by artist David Bradley at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. As the poster above suggests, Bradley's work is both playful and very serious. He concentrates on the experience of American Indians, culturally and in many other ways.
Bradley's paintings in the exhibit constantly refer to the work of earlier artists -- as above, Mona Lisa appears in many of his paintings, including in one instance framed on a wall behind a portrait of his wife. In the exhibit were also works creatively appropriating or parodying specific paintings by Botero, Magritte, Rousseau, and others. He also depicts corporate logos such as the McDonald's arches or the Walmart sign.
Bradley amusingly places recognizable little portraits within larger paintings. For example, in a work depicting the Indian Market in Santa Fe you can find Mona Lisa eating a cookie as well as Picasso, Elvis, John Wayne, Georgia O'Keeffe, a Civil War general, and many more that I can't remember. Bill and Hillary Clinton were eating at a diner in one painting. Tonto and the Lone Ranger are frequently present, adding whimsy to quite serious works about America and its culture. The famous figures from American Gothic were present from time to time. The curator of the exhibition we were attending and the current head of the museum made an appearance at an Indian feast.
To quote the museum write up, which deals only with the artist's serious side:
"David Bradley (b. 1954), Minnesota Chippewa, creates narrative artworks which tell stories and histories not often heard by non-Native people nor understood from a Native American perspective. Saturated with a powerful Native voice and evocative visual descriptions of Indian experience, Bradley’s artworks depict historical, social, and political truths, personal narrative, and cultural critique. In Bradley’s narratives of Indian Country, Native people take center stage in world art and history. Through his artwork he challenges stereotypes about Native American people, places, and events we think we understand, revealing the indigenous experiences at the core of what it means to be American. As Bradley has said, 'I try to use my art to spotlight the Indian worldview and sociopolitical realities. To expose social injustice is to begin to overcome it.'I'll be returning to Bradley's work in the future, when I have time to learn more about him. Meanwhile, I can't say too strongly how much I admire his choices of subject matter. The Santa Fe museum is one of my favorite places to learn about American Indian art.
This morning, before we went to the museum, we had a beautiful bird walk at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Santa Fe. I'll be writing about our outdoor adventures as we continue to search for new and interesting birds.