Culture » Visual Arts

Gregg Deal shows the living reality of indigenous American culture


The response to artist Gregg Deal’s work changed when he moved from Washington, D.C., to the Springs around 21/2 years ago.

“Mostly because the amount of indigenous people in the east is less apparent,” he says. “Most people even expect [indigenous culture] to be here in some ways.” But Colorado is much whiter than D.C. — he blends in out east in ways he can’t here.

Originally from Utah, Deal’s a member of the Reno, Nevada-area Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. He works primarily in two-dimensional art — paintings, murals and mixed-media work — though he’s produced video and conceptual art too. On April 28, a selection of his work will be on exhibition at the local office of Native Hawaiian contractors DAWSON as part of the DAWSON Art Project. According to art coordinator Megan Larmie, the goal of the project is “to curate and sponsor exhibitions of original, culturally grounded artwork produced by indigenous artists living within the Colorado community.”

Deal’s exhibition is titled Existence as Protest, which he describes as something of a softball compared to most of what he does — not exactly what one might expect given the title.
“It’s stuff that’s approachable, things that anybody can look at and sort of be able to understand,” he explains. “The effort [by the United States and, in some cases, Canada] in the beginning was to eliminate indigenous people. So as a result of that, our very existence is a protest to those policies.”

Most of what Deal will exhibit at DAWSON is portraiture, sometimes pulling from often-manufactured frontier-era photography, sometimes juxtaposing modern Native Americans with stereotypical representations. It’s a departure from a lot of market-driven indigenous art, which he says often demands artists represent their culture as something dead or shoehorn it into nationalistic myths like Hollywood’s contrived “cowboys and Indians” narrative.

“I like the idea of being able to say outwardly, even through art, that we’re still here and that we have opinions and thoughts and ideas,” he says, “and that our existence has been part of the American narrative, and will always be part of the American narrative, because this is Indian land.”

Deal’s exhibition will be viewable by appointment ( through late July.

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