Chris Pappan

Bambi School Dropout

Acrylic, color pencil, map collage on wood panel, 48"h x 24"w, Item No. 12866,

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There are many issues at play in my new series of paintings titled Modern Mythologies and I feel objectification should be a starting point in the discussion of these works. The models themselves serve as metaphors for the entirety of Native American (indigenous) cultures and the misrepresentations that are rampant in portrayals of us, and Native peoples willingness to play into, and perpetuate stereotypes. Not necessarily out of malice, but a naivety.

At the same time, I am addressing stories (from oral traditions) that have been handed down and these pieces serve as a modern (and slightly ambiguous) interpretation of the anthropomorphic deities that are prevalent not only in Native cultures but across the world such as those found in Hinduism, the Greek mythologies, etc.



I am also interested in attempting to portray a balance between both male and female within one being while simultaneously exposing the eroticism (pun intended) that has always been a part of native cultures, but is not always talked about openly. As a result of the colonization of our minds and cultures, our humanity has been forced out of our teachings. This series of drawings and paintings are intended to remind us and reestablish the humanity that is lacking in so many depictions of Native people.



Bambi School Dropout depicts a contemporary re-imagining of the mythological (or maybe not so mythological) figure of Deer Woman. The deer woman story has roots in many Native American cultures and other cultures across the world. Within the context of Ledger art wherein a narrative tradition is established, this piece also tells the story of the recent evolution of Native American art (particularly painting and 2d arts) with the deer as a narrative device (hero/villain?).



The ledger in the background references one of the first major steps in this revolution, and is the primary focus of my body of work: the introduction of paper via the ledger book. I believe Ledger art and its history act as a point of entry where viewer and artist can open a dialogue.



The near pictographic representations of the deer on the ledger are representative of the art training programs at Native American boarding schools (Chilloco, and Haskell in particular) that became known as the Bacone School or Bambi School. Transforming the work of Southern plains artists, the style became influential to artists across the country, including Pueblo artists and muralists in the Southwest. Later, the resulting works were not always looked at very favorably by contemporary Native artists looking to move beyond established and imposed artistic norms, but the art produced from the artists of that era were influential nonetheless. They also represent a rigid and strict code of rules that are inherent in the attempts to conform our way of thinking and creating our own representations of who we truly are.



Lastly there is the pop surrealist depiction of the Deer Woman, which is the next step in this artistic evolution of Native American art. No longer feeling the need to conform to the aforementioned imposed parameters about Native art in terms of content or specific imagery, artists today are incorporating and adapting the many influences in our modern lives to express our ideas of self-determination and sovereignty. Just as we have always done, and just as we will always continue to do so.



The story of Deer Woman is that of a warning: ?If you are careless the Deer Woman will lure you into temptation and death. But if you're observant you will see her hooves and Deer Woman will be exposed and will no longer trick you ?. I think this is a parable that can be applied to contemporary Native Art as well: If you create what's from your heart and are not trying to deceive anyone, then that will be recognized and you will be able to connect with people in a true and honest way. At the same time, understanding the rules that govern certain aspects of our lives (for better or worse) only then will you be able to break those boundaries to create revolutionary ideas and thinking.



-Chris Pappan

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