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Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to ICT

Powerful visual images created by merely typing words is a new frontier. For Osage artist Dante Biss-Grayson, it’s also art born from personal trauma.

In a new show at his Taos studio, where he also sells his wildly popular clothing line, Sky Eagle Collection, Biss-Grayson has made striking art using artificial intelligence.

“After multiple tours overseas, in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Italy, I returned home, with many traumatic incidents locked deep inside my heart and soul,” he told ICT. “I needed a release. I needed therapy. So I opened my art and fashion studios.”

The use of artificial intelligence is a new venture for Biss-Grayson, who paints, writes poetry and creates art installations. He is also a fashion designer, with two sold-out shows at Santa Fe Indian Market that featured celebrity models Ashley Calling Bull and Amber Midthunder.

Actress Ashley Callingbull models a dress created by Osage artist and fashion designer Dante Biss-Grayson, right, in a fashion show at the Sante Fe Indian Market in August 2022.  The dress was also worn by actress Amber Midthunder at the premiere of the movie, "Prey." (Photo courtesy of Dante Biss-Grayson)

And he will appear as an Osage artist in the upcoming mega-budget film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” directed by Martin Scorsese, about the Osage Reign of Terror from 1921-1926 that left more than 60 Osage people dead in Oklahoma.

His latest pieces, though, raise a question that many in the art world are asking: Is this art?

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“I am sure this will come up,” he said, “but yes, I think it is a new genre of art and will eventually evolve into video, movie making, and books ... Involving the AI will be a brave new world for art and Native art.”

The new exhibition, "Deus ex Machine: God Out Of The Machine," opened Sept. 29 at his studio, Sky-Eagle Gallery, 131 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte in Taos. It will continue indefinitely, with new pieces rotated in periodically, he said.

‘Exploring new technologies’

He turned to AI software and apps to create the new artwork.

“AI is a field of computer science that focuses on building machines that mimic human intelligence or even simulate the human brain through a set of algorithms,” he said. “For this series of artwork, I am exploring new technologies.”

He said he became interested in AI after hearing about an artist who won first prize at a state fair with artwork that had been created with artificial intelligence.

“He put on there that it was AI generated and there was a lot of backlash,” Biss-Grayson said. “So I started researching and finding out about Mid Journey and other AI apps that you can use. I started playing around with it and created some designs, about things that affect me and Natives — Osage Reign of Terror, Trail of Tears, boarding schools. You can add words and keep composing. I'm directing and composing at the same time.”

This artwork of an Osage warrior by Osage artist and fashion designer Dante Biss-Grayson is part of an exhibition that opened Sept. 29, 2022, of works he created using artificial intelligence. The exhibition is at his studio, Sky-Eagle Gallery, in Taos, New Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Dante Biss-Grayson)

The results were surprising, he said.

“The images came out hauntingly, and I began to compose and add more words, such as bright light, multiple views, etc.” he said. “The images created never existed before, and I tried to duplicate the words, but the program would not replicate.”

From there, he began adding more unusual words.

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“I began to test more complex concepts, such as Deus ex machina, and philosophies, such as ‘God is Dead,’ then juxtapose the words against Native American History, Manifest Destiny, Genocide, and Boarding Schools, and this is what was produced,” he said.

“I began inputting entire poems that I wrote, and the more words I input, the greater the detail of the image,” he said, adding, “I plan on illustrating my book of poetry with this method.”

He created a whole show – 10 images – in 30 minutes. An unheard of amount of time for such sophisticated work.

Film and fashion

His interest in Osage Reign of Terror is personal, as that is his tribal history. He is a direct descendant of one of the people killed in a wave of attacks meant to take land and assets from wealthy Osage people.

He was hired as a special effects consultant for the film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” to provide canvas art painting and pigments that would have been used in the 1920s, he said.

“Then they flew me out, and I was cast as the ‘Osage artist’,” he said. “I got to paint in a scene, a live, real-time painting. It was awesome to be on set. I had that camera right in front of my face and I was painting. I wasn’t nervous, as I was in my zone.”

Artwork and new fashion designs from Osage artist Dante Biss-Grayson went on display starting Sept. 29, 2022, at his studio, Sky-Eagle Gallery, in Taos, New Mexico. He used artificial intelligence to create the artwork in what he says is a "brave new world" for Native art.  (Photo courtesy of Dante Biss-Grayson)

The film, directed by Scorsese, stars Leonardo DeCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone, and is set to be released next year.

“It was cool to meet Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio,” he said. “It was a huge budget, over $200 million. I'm going to the Cannes Film Festival and then there's Venice Film Festival and Los Angeles and Sundance. After all that, they will release it.”

He is now using AI as a design tool for his fashions as well.

“A recent series I did is of dresses for fashion,” he said. “I started thinking about Aspen barks and trees, and different materials for a couture dress using sustainable materials. I input those words for dress images.”

The resulting images are free-flowing and wild, with designs that may or may not be possible to create in real life.

“It feels interesting,” he said. “I started drawing the dresses and then I was like, ‘Well, why don't I use the AI?’ I may never draw again, just tell the robot to do it.”

The show in Santa Fe was a hit, with the celebrities helping generate excitement.

“It was a labor of love,” he said. “Two years of my collection all in one, bringing together and giving back to a lot of those actresses and influencers I've helped out. Or I worked with before and I never asked for anything returned. And the one time I did ask for something, they were there within seconds. They said, ‘Yes, we love you. We will fly up.’”

And he’s already making international plans for the future.

“I don't even know if I'll do one in Santa Fe next year,” he said. “I'm doing New York and Paris and Cannes next year. I may do a virtual show for Santa Fe at White Sands and have 20 models and helicopters filming it. Something visually wild.”

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