I first became aware of the art of Diné (Navajo) self-taught painter and pastel artist Monty H. Singer at Fire God Gallery in Santa Fe. Influenced by the film noir genre, the work exhibited there featured velvety female nudes objectified in a very raw sexual and dark way. His pastel pieces have a very photographic quality, which have a way of drawing you into their world.
This year will mark Singer’s third year journeying down the road to SWAIA Indian Market. Upon visiting his home studio, one gets the sense that he is extremely organized and can easily multitask to get ready for Market. What’s amazing is that Singer can work on so many genres at one time. Never having met the artist, I was prepared, based on the nude works that I had seen, to come face-to-face with someone highly intense, visceral, slightly tormented and filled with rage, but, in truth, Singer is really a brilliant artist, with a calm disposition, who can capture a variety of moods and themes and can talk very intellectually about it all.
That’s not to say there isn’t rage inside him, which he talked candidly about in his interview with Uncle Paulie’s World. Some of the things that fill him with that anger are fetal alcohol disease, with which many people in his family have been afflicted, along with the racism directed towards mixed raced Indians on the Navajo Reservation. This is a particularly strong subject for the artist since his niece is half Navajo, half Black. In fact, the day that I visited his studio, Singer was hard at work at the beginnings of a pastel portrait of his niece decked out in traditional Navajo clothing and jewelry. Based on a photograph, he subsequently finished the piece the following day with tremendous results. He is also working on a series about fetal alcohol disease as well, which ekoves intense emotion and empathy on the part of the spectator. The empathy is then followed by a horribly disturbed feeling. Singer really knows how to provoke.
In addition to the stylized nudes, Singer also creates photo-realistic “in your face” rock formations. A departure from the norm, Singer even recently finished a piece that combines his love of nudes with abstract qualities. And while the subject was naked, she seemed almost a seraphim-like, and lacked the darkness and raw sexuality that he is accustomed to painting. The convergence of the abstract (The background was added after the female figure.) with the nude had an interesting effect that Singer wasn’t quite sure worked. I suggested that it was indeed something that someone at Indian Market would be interested in buying.
Monty Singer talked to me at length about his work and what it’s like to be a participating SWAIA Indian Market artist. Check his art out and unique perspective HERE: