Rendering Views from Paper to Canvas

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Star Wallowing Bull (Ojibwe/Arapaho) presents new works in Mechanistic Renderings, a solo exhibition created in part with support from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) in Santa Fe.

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Chief Cadillac by Star Wallowing Bull (Ojibwe/Arapaho), NACF Regional Visual Arts Fellow. Photo courtesy the artist and Bockley Gallery.

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On view until July 31, the exhibition includes the drawings in colored-pencil Wallowing Bull is well-known for, as well as several acrylic paintings. He started painting in acrylic seven years ago to “give his hands a break” from his detailed pencil drawing and to explore new forms of expression. The transition from pencil to paint was a natural one says the artist. “I don’t get as many details with my paintings but that gives me a sense of freedom,” said Wallowing Bull.

His works in the new medium continue to tell stories about the environment, himself and other tribes, using symbols that he masterfully layers into the canvas. In Mechanistic Renderings, Wallowing Bull presents themes of robotics and mechanics, delving into interests which date back to when he used to play with Transformers as a boy and was intrigued by how robots worked. Growing up, the artist’s father Frank Big Bear Jr., would take him to museums. Wallowing bull considers his father his greatest mentor and Picasso one of his favorite artists. When asked about more recent influences, he attributes many of the pop culture elements present in his work and the greatest influence on his work for the past decade, to his encounter with the work of North Dakota-born pop artist James Rosenquist.

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Toxic Seahorse by Star Wallowing Bull (Ojibwe/Arapaho), NACF Regional Visual Arts Fellow. Photo courtesy the artist and Bockley Gallery.

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Originally from Minneapolis and raised in the Twin Cities, Wallowing Bull lives in the Fargo-Moorhead area. His work is part of the permanent collection at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, where he has a new exhibit scheduled for October. “The NACF regional fellowship will enable me to spend some time at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to reconnect with my relatives there and do some research on my family,” he said. “I plan on incorporating this experience into a new series of paintings for the Plains Art Museum exhibit in the fall.”

For the artist, funding from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation not only plays an important part in Native artist recognition, but also allows for experiences such as the one he is about to embark on in South Dakota, which he feels will enrich his work and impact his creative expression. “It’s hard for Native artists to get grants,” explained Wallowing Bull. “We are a small minority in this country.”

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