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Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute): "Merciless Indian Savages"
“The Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.” - The Declaration of Independence, 1776
What does American Democracy mean to a person whose ancestors were insulted in its founding document? Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute) chose Thomas Jefferson’s words as the title of his exhibition in order to help answer that question.
With "Merciless Indian Savages," Deal leads an Indigenous exploration of what American Democracy means in Indian Country. Deal’s work reveals a political process that marginalizes Native peoples in the service of American myth-making. Artists find unique, dynamic ways to confront this painful past and to fight for a more inclusive future.
What does it mean to communicate an Indigenous message, when to do so effectively means to speak through filters of capitalism, nationalism, and mainstream American society? How does an Indigenous person stay true to their identity while participating in a culture that has historically stereotyped them? Exploring these ideas through art invites us to consider the meaning of democracy from perspectives as diverse as each of its participants.
About Gregg Deal
Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe) is a contemporary artist who challenges Western perceptions of Indigenous people, touching on issues of race, history and stereotypes. He was Native Arts Artist-in-Residence at Denver Art Museum in 2015-2016 and Artist-In-Residence at UC Berkeley 2017-2018. Gregg has lectured widely at prominent educational institutions and museums, including Denver Art Museum, Dartmouth College Columbia University, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. His television appearances include PBS’s The Art District, The Daily Show and Totally Biased with Kamau Bell.