Two Little Indians, oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm, 2011
I've never read any Agatha Christie but while I was working on this painting in 2012 the title And Then There Were None came to me. Christie's novel was originally titled Ten Little Niggers in the 1930s when it was published. As the murders occur in a large estate, like always, the porcelain figures are smashed until none remain. It's a countdown to extinction, and that's also basically true of the indigenous peoples as well. Under colonialism there has been cultural and violent genocide carried out against native peoples. My work deals with issues around existence and death. I was working with images of astronauts and indians or I should say Native Americans … this is tricky territory considering I am a white suburban guy from Kentucky. But I figured as an American living in the Czech Republic, I could approach such symbols with some degree of authenticity being an American. Living here for 17 years now I see the USA as the New World. The Trail of Tears, the removal of large populations of tribal peoples from the southeast USA to reservations further west, took place in the 1830s until the Civil War broke out. After the war the veterans went out west and killed off the buffalo, decimating the Sioux, Navajo, Hopi and Apache peoples. The list goes on and on. Its really not that long ago ultimately, and America still seethes with its history of conquest and exploitation.
Indian, oil on canvas, 65 x 50 cm, 2011
“We” have methodically killed and regulated the native peoples of the American continent. The Standing Rock demonstrations against the DAPL pipeline in 2016 were very important and revealing of the relationship between the oil industry and resisting populations. But that was after I did these paintings. When I lived in New York I had a girlfriend who worked at the Museum of Native American Art and I went once to a conference there with representatives from many tribes in both North and South America. That was a beautiful experience to see tall Navajo guys with beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry and short Ecuadorian guys with feather headdresses and many many other people. As an emigrant to Europe I find I miss all that multicultural beauty of America. Compared to Europe, the USA is still wild and diverse. There's a lot of space and in the night the darkness is much more penetrating. I begin to see America like some German filmmaker like Werner Herzog, its a canvas for my imagination. God bless America, can we stop the violence?
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