Stan Natchez took a circuitous route to his successful
career as a full-time artist. His father, an intellectual,
authored a book on the connections between Jungian and
Native American symbolism and Natchez himself earned
a bachelor's and master's degree before teaching humanities
for 10 years at a prep school, then serving as an editor
at Native Peoples Magazine. Always a creative
child while growing up in Los Angeles, it was his participation
in Native American dances that led him to painting.
“In the white man’s world, if you want to get an education, you go to college,” Natchez explains. “In the Indian way, if you want to get knowledge, you go through ceremonies. I am a California Indian (Tataviam, “the people who face the sun”) and all our ceremonies are gone. But I was fortunate enough to travel throughout the United States and meet people who lived in tribes that had ceremonies and invited me in.” Performing traditional Native American dances throughout Europe and the U.S., Natchez developed a fine eye for both color and composition from the beadwork he created for his regalia. By learning from elders of many tribes during these travels, he gives credit to this artistic medium for building in him a stronger sense of cultural self esteem.
Native American dances throughout Europe and the U.S.,
Natchez developed a fine eye for both color and composition
from the beadwork he created for his regalia. By learning
from elders of many tribes during these travels, he gives
credit to this artistic medium for building in him a
stronger sense of cultural self esteem.
fortunate for having been raised in the city because
of the perspective it gave me on modern life," Natchez
observes. "However, without an awareness of our
traditional heritage, we as Native Americans have no
identity. By taking the best of both worlds, the modern
and the traditional, we are better able to find balance
in our lives." The philosophies and techniques of
these two worlds have allowed Natchez to achieve a complex
harmony in his work - with a distinctive Neo-Pop style.
His unique and dramatic mixed-media paintings may incorporate
a range of items from beadwork to bottle caps into their
design. Images are conveyed with the two-dimensional
look of Native American "ledger art"
even as the artist's subjects ask viewers to look deeper
at that which is represented. By overlaying many of these
images over actual U.S. currency the representation of
ideas grows more compellingly complex.
"When I paint the dollar bill," the artist explains, "I'm
saying that the dollar bill is a symbol of the world we
live in. When you go to the store, what do you need to
buy something? You need money, right? In the 1700s and
1800s Indians painted on deerskin, buffalo or elk hides.
And if you wanted something, hides were your money. So
the modern-day hide is the dollar bill."
strongly about communicating contemporary Native American
philosophy that has been purged of any romantic or stereotypical
idealism. This is undeniably thought-provoking Native