Rez Dogs artist Chaz John is back, and he’s knee deep in dreams and the American mythos
You know how your dreaming life is a stitched-together assortment of vaguely familiar ideas, shapes and pseudo-realities? Or when you describe to someone how you dreamed about them by saying, “You were you, but you weren’t you?” You know how the memory of the dream fades quickly the longer removed from it you find yourself, or how there’s often a pang of nostalgia associated with your subconscious mind’s ability to play movies for you while you sleep? Artist Chaz John (Winnebago, Mississippi Band Choctaw and European) is fascinated with this stuff, and it’s some of what makes it into his upcoming show at Ellsworth Gallery, Manifest Destiny’s Child.
In the show, John tackles the idea of the American frontier, the bizarre American insistence about what we might call the good ol’ days and a dash of self-directed Jungian psychology for a sort-of installation featuring paintings culled from his dreams and life, sculptural pieces (no spoilers, but we’re particularly looking forward to the piece “Andrew Jackson’s Dumb-Ass Leg”) and a video component.
“We are, in the present moment, the product of this sort of ideology and greater myth of American life,” John tells SFR. “It’s an approach to examining the outlook of the greater human or collective experience—I think I was kind of examining what it’s like to be both Indigenous and part of a colonial heritage. It seems, especially with the conflicts and everything happening right now, like everything is unrecognizable and recognizable at the same time. That’s very similar, I think, to what I think dreaming is.”
As always, John inserts humor into his show as well. A living M&M surfs through a dungeon and pigs tear through slop. But there are also elements of death and decay—yet also burning or renewal. It’s a departure from John’s previous works but another seeming home run from the Santa Fe-cum-Kansas artist. Ellsworth offers a virtual opening this Friday, but John says appointments will be available once the current COVID-19 lockdown lifts.
-Alex De Vore, Santa Fe Reporter
Artist Chaz John. Photo by J.C. Gonzo