Curator Douglas Miles on his What Tribe’s recent L.A. show.
One of the hottest weeks in L.A. And we felt it. Though we’re from AZ, we still had to acclimate. Maybe we brought heat from Arizona. We were a long way from San Carlos, Salt River and Window Rock but we were with friends. The What Tribe East L.A. show was hosted by Self Help Graphics and curated by Douglas Miles. Our last venue was in Phoenix AZ. Denver University in Colorado kicked off the What Tribe concept in Fall 2012. Now it has traveled to Los Angeles, Boyle Heights East Los to be exact. It was summer’s last gasp and the What TRIBE Project co-existed with L.A. heat. Follow now as the all-seeing eye of Eriberto Oriol documents a small mural project and fun art opening held on Thursday night at Self Help Graphics & Art. We were there for a week.
The What Tribe Art Project is a discussion on the proliferation of stereotypes of Native people and other “tribes” in media. I wanted to allow artists to create a proactive dialogue, not a reactionary one which we often see via social media. However the show has transformed into a way to bring various “tribes” together in an unspoken unity to have a greater discussion away from the environs of academia and art institutions that pander to an apathetic mainstream. What Tribe was not about big names, fame or political correctness. It addresses the issue of racist stereotype via constructive positive dialogue with artists in community. It was also (I hoped) an opportunity for emerging artists to work with more established ones in new school fashion.
The show is inherently about tribal self-definition. There’s a long history of institutions attempting to tell or define our “native” story. All artists must endeavor to define their own work. Artists often think someone will do it for them. We voice our unique story through art as we speak for ourselves as Native people, artists, designers, film makers, survivors and creators gifted by the creator, not as victims or tragic icons. We welcome making friends that respect our creative processes. The mural artists were: Thomas “Breeze” Marcus, Vyal Ryes, Renelle White Buffalo and myself, Douglas Miles.
The contributing and featured artists were :
Eriberto Oriol, Mike Miller, Douglas Miles, Thomas “Breeze” Marcus, Micah “Werewulf” Wesley, Joseph M. Sanchez , Jasmin Rosales, Jonathan Nelson, Angel Diaz, Katie Beltran, Avis Charley, Luke Dorsett, Renelle White Buffalo, Vyal Reyes, Joel “Rage 1” Garcia, and a mysterious El Fatom .
Via the What Tribe mural project, we wanted to reclaim and reinstate our (Native) images via art in a larger context and format, the City of Angels. As we shared with the diverse L.A. community our perspective from reservation, city and tribal backgrounds, we inform and share our own aesthetic. A unique tribal view is actually missing from one of the largest cities in the world. At the same time we aren’t pandering nor looking for pity from an exclusive art mainstream or society at large. Art always speaks for itself. After having a discussion about cultural appropriation with Vyal Reyes (Artist-In-Residence S.H.G.) and Evonne Gallardo (Director of Self Help Graphics) they suggested we also do a wall at Self Help Graphics.
The mural in Boyle Heights at Self Help Graphics is a proactive positive way to bring a visual indigenous aesthetic point of view to a city known for its cultural diversity. Mural art is about becoming part of the community. Murals allow artists to have a larger conversation within a community. Mural art isn’t necessarily about “being seen” as much as it’s about “seeing” the world around you and speaking on it. Like a skater having fun turning the streets into a moving playground, we wanted to become “one with the environment”. As a Native American myself (San Carlos Apache /O’Odham) it was an honor to be invited by friends in Los Angeles, Self Help Graphics (and curate What Tribe) to work in a respected Chicano East Side community with a great tradition of art for tribal people.
Right now I’m looking for other venues, locales, galleries etc. to partner with and would like to see the show travel. In the process of creating, curating and executing the show, I’ve made new friendships and strengthened old ones. I can’t speak for all artists or tribes. No matter where we’re from we have roots and specific social mores unique to our own families/tribes/cultures. Whether Native Californian or Native American, or both, I wanted to show and share similarities we all have. All of us are “tribal” people in some manner.
We all have a lot of work to do in bringing communities, artists, leaders and tribes together around important issues we all face. I figured WHAT TRIBE was a good place to start. Hope you all get to see the show and of course there will be others. Right now I’m busy writing down thoughts on this show and its importance to the communities involved. Thank you all artists and friends that helped along the way. It’s only a beginning.
Originally published at Apaches and Angels
All photos Eriberto Oriol