One would be forgiven for thinking that the mural of a feather and dreamcatcher on the wall of nightclub Los Globos was just another attempt at cultural appropriation. The club, after all, sits in the hipster-iffic enclave of Silverlake, CA. The mural, however, is the real deal.
“I have nothing against the hipster,” said Native American artist Renelle White Buffalo over the phone with a laugh, “but I want it to be more than that.”
Renelle grew up in South Dakota on a Sioux tribe reservation. She earned a degree in art from Iowa State University with an emphasis on sculpture and figure painting. After earning her degree, she decided to move to a part of the country where it didn’t snow as much, preferably at all, which is how she ended up in Los Angeles a few years ago. She spent a year working a regular nine to five job to pay bills before quitting and putting all of her focus on her art.
“My intention is to let people know of the struggles and the strengths of the Lakota people and the indigenous people,” she said of her work. “It’s also a reflection of the past and present of my life, growing up on a reservation and now being in the city.”
Her mural on the wall of Los Globos is part of Red Bull’s Latagrafica series. Each month from January until October this year, a different artist based in Los Angeles will have an opportunity to create a mural to be displayed in the city. At the end, the company will select one of the artists with the honor of displaying his/her work on a 12 oz. can of the energy drink that will be sold nationwide.
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“I was a little intimidated at first because there’s so many great muralists in the program already,” she admitted. “I always go into things with no fear and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and this was a time that it worked.”
The mural, as well as many of her most recent paintings, takes the traditional, often times stereotypical or just far too common, tropes of Native American art (buffalo, headdresses, dreamcatchers, etc.) and skews it through a more contemporary and abstract lens. Many of her headdresses and dreamcatchers, for example, are hardly recognizable as such, which is exactly the type of art she loves. She wants people to dig deep into the meaning behind her art.
“The reason why I do this is to defy stereotypes,” she explained. “I don’t want to be the cliché Native American artist. I’m not going to paint dreamcatchers and a Native woman, naked, hair flowing in the wind, next to a horse. I want it to mean something…to me, to other indigenous people, to all different cultures. I don’t want it to be ‘in.’”
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