March 20, 2009

Obama portrait puts Echo-Hawk on map

Echo-Hawk, the artistEcho-Hawk, 33, has long been expressing himself through painting and drawing, but it was last August, during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, that his work began to attract an even larger nationwide Native following.

The Pawnee and Yakama tribal member was invited to attend an Aug. 27 event celebrating Native contributions to the Democratic Party. There, he was asked to create a unique live painting, with dozens of attendees watching over him as he worked.
The result:In the end, Echo-Hawk’s portrayal somehow made Obama seem like both a revolutionary warrior and a peaceful listener.

Just as artist Shepard Fairey was able to express the feelings of the change movement by creating a distinctive representation of Obama in a much celebrated poster with the block words “Hope” imprinted at the bottom, Echo-Hawk was sending a message: Obama should be the clear choice for Natives. He was a man who would understand. He was a man who would listen.

Soon, the painting began getting attention throughout Indian country; YouTube videos were made about its creation; and it received plenty of tribal attention in the Denver region.
More on Echo-Hawk:“I get inspired and motivated to do my art from injustice in Indian country,” Echo-Hawk said in a recent interview posted on YouTube. “There are a great number of atrocities that our people faced throughout the past 500 years. My fuel for my art comes from how those atrocities affect us today as Americans, as Native Americans.”

Echo-Hawk believes art is a pathway to re-educating the public and correcting stereotypes about Native Americans.

“Through art, that can be achieved,” Echo-Hawk said. “It can set sparks off in people’s minds, in people’s hearts, and inspire them to want to look at these issues and do something about it.”
Comment:  I thought Echo-Hawk was pretty well known before he did this portrait. But if it finally put him on the map, great.

As you may recall, I met Echo-Hawk at an International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management roundtable in November 2004. We were the only two "creative" people in a roomful of scientists, managers, and educators. Since then we've been pen-pals.

For more on the subject, see:

Bunky's Native icons
Bunky paints live!
NVision multimedia artists
Native icons live on

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