Frank Buffalo Hyde (Onondaga/Nez Perce) has a lot to say about digital technology, social media and how Native Culture exploits its use but he communicates with paint and brush. It’s all on display at the Museum of Indian Art and Culture in Santa Fe in an exhibit titled “I-Witness Culture” that opened on February 3.
Hyde believes it is the artist’s responsibility to represent the times in which they live. He feels it’s his job to document the times beyond the composition and his tools are satire and pointed allegorical commentary on society.
Hyde admits to a punk rock sensibility, it’s a place from where he views pop and mainstream culture. He is constantly undermining the establishment and his subversive attitude shows in street art techniques but he is trained in fine art sensibilities.
Says Hyde in a statement,“The act of putting a brush on canvas is exactly the opposite of the cyber reality on the Internet. It is a visceral experience. For me painting is very romantic and noble.”
Frank Buffalo Hyde was born in Santa Fe in 1974, the son of famous Nez Perce sculptor Doug Hyde and Ann Homer, Onondaga Beaver Clan, and then he grew up with his mother’s family at Onondaga Nation, right next to the Onondaga buffalo herd.
His parents, aunts and uncles, attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and so he represents that era and heritage very well. He is married to IAIA alumna Courtney Leonard (Shinnecock) and they run Studio Central in the Rail-yard district in Santa Fe.
There are many artists of mixed tribal lineage from IAIA going back to the 60’s up to the present day. Like many southwestern artists, Frank Buffalo grew up around Santa Fe galleries and Indian Market and has been showing his art since he was a teenager and has been a presence in town and on the Internet for 20 years.
Frank Buffalo Hyde has defined himself as a Native American without being a stereotype and dealing with what he calls the "fragmented contemporary life" of a Native U.S. citizen. He works, “in that space between where popular culture labelled us and what Native Americans really are.”
“We are sharing information at rate that has never been possible before. Today’s Native artists use technology as a tool of Indigenous activism, a means to document, and a form of validation.” says Hyde in his statement. “Technology has brought change to our social construct, at the expense of the grace of experience and the intimacy of being in the moment. We don’t witness anything first hand anymore, it’s all through a digital filter. We are losing our ability to relate to each other, to be humane to each other.”
In “I-Witness Culture,” Frank Buffalo Hyde divides his contemporary narrative into three sections, “Paranormal: The Truth is Out There”, as in Cryptozoology, the study of folklore, the extinct and unknown, where Indians seem to fit right in with Bigfoot, zombies and aliens; “Selfie Skndns”, meaning the digital age where if you don’t record it on social media it doesn’t exist; and “In-Appropriate.”
Hyde says, “In a nation obsessed with sameness - afraid of difference - popular culture homogenizes indigenous cultures, "honoring" us with fashion lines, misogynistic music videos, or offensive mascots and Halloween costumes."
Today, these stereotypes and romantic notions are irrelevant as a new generation of Native American artists uses social media to let the world know who they are. Today, we are the observers, as well as the observed. We are here, we are educated, and we define Indian art.”
“This is life at the beginning of the 21st century. Information is instantaneous. Attention spans have shrunk. If you can’t get someone attention in 5 seconds, you’re not going to at all. I draw from the collective unconsciousness… images from advertisement, movies, television, music and politics."
"Overlapping imagery to mimic the way the mind holds information: non linear and without separation. I don't need permission to make what I make. Never have...no artist should. Hold on to the light we have ALL created. We live in interesting times...and it's going to take all of our voices. Don't wait for approval. Don't wait for permission. Do what you do! You are already valid. It's your birthright!”