Contemporary Wall Art Goes Public with Native American Graffiti Artists
Contemporary American Indian Art is finding a voice in unconventional art forms. Modern American Indian artists are using graffiti to represent Native American themes and concepts.
As is reflected in artist John Neito’s paintings, cultural pride is the central driving force behind today’s contemporary Native American art and is depicted in each piece. From the critically acclaimed Nieto to the new emerging artists like Dwayne Manuel who have spearheaded American Indian graffiti art, they continue to give Native American culture a strong voice in the modern day society.
Manuel is at the forefront of this cultural art movement and striving to bring indigenous themed art to the forefront. For graffiti and American Indian artist Manuel, art was second nature. He picked up drawing at the young age of three years old and later on got into spray painting. He found spray painting to be captivating as is expressed in the following quote: “I love seeing the color and stuff and these walls painted with graffiti…It kind of opened my eyes when I started seeing it on the streets when we’d go into town” Manuel said. But what began as a school age hobby eventually sparked into a cultural movement among Native Americans and others all across the United States.
Today’s American Indian artist incorporates rich indigenous themes to reflect their deep cultural roots. Manuel for example, started painting history that cataloged Onk Akimel O’odham, his tribe. His mother also influences his artwork. In the Onk Akimel O’odham tribe, basket weaving is a task that is only completed by women, so men are not allowed to do it. He used to like the designs he would see his mother create on her baskets, and started to create art that would honor and recognize her skillful and creative designs.
To continue his art education, Manuel attended college, and soon after graduation worked with Nike to create a Desert Journey Collection that reflected American Indian concepts like war shields and whirlwinds. As American Indian art gains influence in unique niches, expect to see emerging artists give voice to Native American concepts.