Through sculpture, murals, and ephemeral installations, contemporary Native artists are honoring their heritage, while also giving voice to the indigenous community. By working on public art projects, indigenous artists are also making a statement by reminding the public, “We Exist.” Whether that means creating memorials to honor the contribution of Native American veterans to reclaiming public spaces, the work of these artists is invaluable in teaching the public to move beyond stereotypes.
We're looking at five contemporary Native American artists who often focus on public work in an effort to bring native art to a wider audience. Scroll down to read more about them and discover where you can travel to see their incredible murals and installations.
Here are 5 contemporary Native artists who create public art that reflects their heritage.
Nani Chacon is a Diné and Chicana painter and muralist who uses her public art to facilitate social engagement and community-based integration. One of her most impressive pieces is a 100-foot-long mural, You Can't Take It With You…., located at the Coe Center for the Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Inspired by a contemporary Diné and a traditional Seneca basket in the center's collection, Chacon's piece speaks to how artistic traditions can connect people through time and space.
Squaxin Island artist Andrea Wilbur-Sigo is breaking barriers as a female carver. Raised on the Skokomish Reservation in Washington State, she came from a family of artists but was told that women are not carvers. Despite this obstacle, Wilbur-Sigo became a master of Coast Salish art. Today, she is known for her incredible carved boxes, masks, panels, and figures that pay homage to her Native heritage. Her carvings can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest, including the Squaxin Island Tribe Veterans Memorial and two large wood figures outside of the Seattle Convention Center's new Summit Building.
Anna Tsoulharakis is a performance, video, and installation artist of Greek, Navajo, and Creek heritage. She seeks to push the boundaries of Native American art by creating thought-provoking work. Oftentimes, she asks Natives to recount their experiences or share personal objects as a way to break the stereotypes of how they are perceived by the outside world.
Artist and poet Nora Naranjo-Morse works in several mediums but is most well-known for her metal sculptures. A member of the Tewa tribe, her work explores issues of environment, culture, and creating community art. In 2013, she created Guardians, a set of three abstract steel sculptures. These pieces are located in Albuquerque's Altura Park, looming over the environment with their imposing structures. The silhouettes of these sculptures were inspired by the shapes Naranjo-Morse encountered in her visits to the park and are a calm meditation on the land.
Indigenous artist Jaque Fragua grew up in Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. He connects traditional Native American design with current trends through graffiti, mural art, and sculpture. In 2016, he made headlines for painting the phrase, “This is Indian Land,” on a temporary construction wall in Los Angeles. One of his most iconic pieces is in an alley in Los Angeles' Skid Row neighborhood, called Indian Alley. Fragua painted a warrior on horseback next to the words, “Decolonize and Chill.” He continues to use his artistry to work as an agitator, activating his community and advocating for his culture.