Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Nocona Burgess Pop Artist or Contemporary Traditionalist?

“…I had no choice but to pursue art. It was in my blood.” –Comanche artist Nocona Burgess

My impression of Nocona Burgess, a Comanche artist, originally from Lawton, Oklahoma, is that he is extremely likeable, confident, a genuine family man and an artist who is passionate about the work that he creates. A big fan of his work well before I came to New Mexico (I had to live vicariously through magazine pictures while I was in NYC!), it was a true pleasure to finally meet him at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix.  I have been eyeing a smaller work at Traders Collection in Santa Fe for some time now, so to get to see the larger ones in person was even more impressive.

Everything in Burgess’s past was a sign that he should be an artist—especially the fact that he comes from a family full of artists. Much of his childhood was spent traveling, learning about art and growing up around many famous artists. He also comes from a line of Comanche chiefs that includes his father, artist Ronald Burgess, and goes back all the way to his great-great grandfather Quanah Parker.

After years of art study, Burgess began to doubt that an art career would be lucrative for him. After years working in management at a casino, he decided he wanted more. He returned to his native Oklahoma, after living in numerous cities, and enrolled again in art school. He reconnected with his people there as well. After meeting his wife, they moved to Santa Fe, and the career he knows today began to take shape. One show led to another and the successful ride as a known contemporary Native artist began.

Burgess is quick to let people know that while his work may be perceived as “pop art,” that’s not how he sees it. He doesn’t wake up in the morning and decide to paint “some pop art today,” as he says. His art is influenced by the nature around him, and that is what he paints. He loves traditional Indian art-- something that he is very familiar with, but the enjoyment in creating comes from taking those traditional images and making them his own, which includes humanizing his subjects.  This brings the work closer to the artist and into a sphere of relevancy for him. A musician and an Indian flute player, Burgess loves to branch out and work with new subject matter as he recently did with his, now iconic, “Folsom Prison Blues” period painting of Johnny Cash entitled Johnny that he did for Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art’s 11” x 11” x 11” show.

Check out the interview I did with him at the Heard show HERE, in which he talks about his recent paintings that are inspired by Greek mythology. He says he is always reading and thinking about ways to bring what he learns to his work. This is one smart guy!

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