Dale Ray Deforest, Navajo Artist, Visits AHVC New Art Class
On February 13, 2018, Navajo Artist Dale Deforest gave an artist talk to AHVC New Art entitled “Don’t Call It Native Art,” hosted by Professor. Joy Sperling.
Dale’s presentation focused on his on-going comic book series Hero Twins, a superhero-style narrative inspired by the Navajo creation story. The artist spoke of his career as an illustrator and graphic artist, which evolved into his work as a comic artist. “I’d always been an illustrator, but it didn’t feel like the illustrations were going anywhere; [when] the illustrations became a vehicle for story, that’s when it became meaningful,” Dale said.
His presentation also featured images that consist of ‘mash-ups’ of Native American culture and popular media icons—including Native American versions of Princess Leia and Rey from Star Wars, Audrey Hepburn’s character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the gang from The Breakfast Club, and many others. Professor Sperling first came across Dale’s mash-ups at the Indigenous Comic-Con, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and found them both striking and clever in their use of pop-culture iconography. In describing the significance of his work to the students, she said, “Notice how he draws on his own complex and multi-layered personal life, just like all of us, but then connects that with various aspects of his particular cultural background.”
Dale told stories of his childhood growing up Navajo in the American Southwest, and discussed Native American representation in the media. When asked by a student whether he hoped to spread knowledge of Navajo culture through this popular genre, Dale replied that, while he wanted to be clear that the retellings of these stories are his own, he does hope that his comics will lead his readers back to the original Navajo stories. “I want to inspire kids to do that research,” he said.
Chris Jeansonne, OSU Preparing Future Faculty Program mentee, working with Joy Sperling.