Artist Douglas Miles Speaks To The Invisible Native American Narrative

By: Giani Angel Chavez
Editor: J. Cuevas

Douglas Miles reflects on his experiences and his life growing up in South Phoenix as a platform to inform his works of art. He finds an importance in going back to one’s roots and seeks to showcase pride in his Apache lineage, as well as help his community and others to find pride in their culture and work.

Despite concerns from his family and friends who were wary of him moving to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, Miles thought it necessary for his children to grow up and learn about their culture in a way he was unable to do so. He saw it as an opportunity for growth; to learn how his people live in the world today, as well as teach his children to be proud of their heritage. “We want our kids no matter what to hold their head up high, be proud of who they are and where they’re from, and work hard to get what they want from life,” said Miles.  

If you’ve seen some of Douglas Miles’ work, you would immediately notice his staple Apache figures, stoic and proud; just like the ones within his “Apache 59” serigraph that will be highlighted at our Annual Print Fair on Saturday, June 23rd. This work features the classic 1959 Chevrolet Apache, an homage to the lowrider culture that was a prominent aspect of his life growing up in Arizona. He connects this to his life on the reservation now, where because of its rural placement, is a necessity for people to have a pick-up truck, for transportation of items and on occasion for transporting people in the back of the truck. He finds a connection between the low-rider aesthetic in Chicano art and beautifully places it within the context of his life as a San Carlos Apache Native American.

Being of Apache ancestry, his work speaks to the invisible Native-American narrative of his people, the history not told by academics, but his own people. He believes Self Help Graphics & Art is a great tool to fight against the oppression of native people through art and admires the organization’s humility and willingness to advance the community, as well as their contributing artists, forward. His passion stems from his desire to communicate without words, where he lets his art do all the talking. His art allows him to see the complexities within his own community and is always wondering how his (Apache) community will respond. Although he produces works of topics he likes, it is loaded with pride for his people, reverence for his ancestors, and the importance of community. Douglas hopes it will impact the viewer to find what they love and work to make that a success: “Find out what you’re good at and keep doing it because the more you do, the better you’ll get and you will set yourself apart.

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Giani Chavez is a Self Help Graphics & Art Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern from Grinnell College.