First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 61

CHRIS PAPPAN As far as how [my upbringing] has influ- enced my work … you know, it wasn’t on the reservation. It wasn’t with a lot of my Native side of my family a lot of the time. So I guess for me, my art practice has really been a journey of self-discovery; finding out what this culture means to me, what it means to be Native, and I think I’ll always be learning that—and because I didn’t grow up that way, it’s still a learning process. I think it’s influential in that way, and I guess sometimes I’m putting myself in places where maybe I shouldn’t, just out of ignorance, or you know, doing things that I shouldn’t. I would say that my influence is just learning about myself, basically. Do you find that people have been receptive to that or have you come across people who are critical of you and your artwork because of your upbringing? I think both. The percentage of people who are receptive to it is probably like 99.9 percent, and then the people who are critical are at 0.1 percent. It is hard sometimes having so much love and praise coming at you from the 99 percent and then [negativity from] that small percentage of people who are really crit- ical. I guess if more people were against what I’m doing I would have a thicker skin about it. This is not to say that I don’t have a thick skin about it, but it definitely stays with you more when somebody is just like, “I don’t like what you’re doing,” or, “I don’t think what you’re doing is what you say it is,” or that kind of thing. You talked about meeting your wife at IAIA, and I know your daughter is also an artist and a ballet dancer. What role does family play in your creative process? In terms of creative process, I would say my family is crucial in that they really support me in what I do. Debra espe- cially has made a lot of sacrifices for her own artwork to give me space so I can do what I’m doing. Also, I hope that what I’m doing is rubbing off on Ji Hae in a positive way. She’s a teenager now, so it can be kind of hard to gauge what’s really above Transcendent Delegation, 2017, graphite on ledger paper, 52 × 52 in. opposite Chris Pappan, June 2018. Photo: Debra Yepa-Pappan (Jemez Pueblo). All images courtesy of the artist. rubbing off on her. She does like to draw and that sort of thing, and we’ve shown her artwork with our own. We’ve done family shows, so that’s always cool, and I think it’s a good influence for people to see a strong family unit and that it’s possible to do these things as a family. What would you say inspires or drives your art? I would say something that drives my work is opening people to new experi- ences, because when people come to art fairs, galleries, and museums and see my work, if they are open to it, they can learn a lot about ledger art. Getting my audience to understand that I’m taking this art form and doing something totally different with it, it makes it a brand-new experience for them. Do you think that your work and the way it demonstrates the contemporaneity and continuity of artistic practices is a metaphor for the way you want people see American Indians more broadly? Oh yeah, definitely, because we’re always being kept in the past. I think that’s why people resonate with my work so much, because it brings us into the contemporary context by basing it on a “traditional” art form. I was having this conversation earlier about what is really considered traditional, and how old does it have to be before you can call it that [laughing]. I can also understand that Native people need to hold on to those traditions, because so much has been stripped away from us for so long, and we’ve lost a lot of knowledge. We certainly need to hold on to things, but I think it’s our culture; we’re the ones who are dictating what our culture is now, and we’re in control. People are hearing our WINTER 2018/19 | 59